This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Talking The Talk in Turkey

"These descriptions are very ugly, it is offensive and an insult to our religion. There is no moderate or immoderate Islam. Islam is Islam and that’s it."
"It should be known that adopting a malicious and offending approach toward the sensitive issues of  [the] Islamic world by hiding behind some democratic freedoms like freedom of speech and right of free publication is unacceptable." 
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan 
Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses lawmakers at the parliament in Ankara, Turkey, in June (photo credit: AP)
Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses lawmakers in parliament, Ankara, Turkey (photo credit: AP)

"If the faith of all religious groups in this country is guaranteed in the constitution, and the state’s equal distance to all religious groups is a foundation, why do you need to emphasize Islam? If I can live my faith as a Muslim the way I want to, the issue is over. If a Christian can live his/her Christianity, if a Jew can live his/her Jewishness or an atheist can live his/her atheism, the issue is also over for them."
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu 
"Erdogan is turning Turkey into a powder keg in an attempt to shore up his own political base. He is intentionally activating the longstanding fault lines separating religious and secular Turks — and most dangerously the divide between the country’s Sunni majority and its Alevi [Kurdish] minority. If he continues to do so, Turkish democracy itself could become a casualty of his confrontational policies."
Turkish researcher Halil M. Karaveli
Well, no big surprise, Mr. Karaveli's prediction is now recognized as reality, and Ahmet Davutoglu is no longer Turkey's prime minister. Effectively, it could be said, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who began as prime minister then transitioned to president to remain in power in a masterful subterfuge emulating Russian President Vladimir Putin (disproving the adage that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery), has now altered the constitution to his liking and has become the government incarnate.
The West was all agog over the "Turkish model", not so long ago. When Erdogan's Justice and Development Party was elected to government in 2002, surely alarm bells rang in the ears of most Turks who valued the separation of church and state in their country's tradition? But then Mr. Erdogan headed the country during a time of economic growth and prosperity, and he tamped down fears of fundamentalism, in a clever bid to present as dedicated to democracy.
How else be accepted into the European Union, as the country lodged between East and West, moderate and secular? It was only its human rights record, fairly abysmal in its treatment of Turkish Kurds and just incidentally a free press, and its failure to acknowledge the genocidal treatment of Armenians that had the EU keep Turkey at arms-length. Not NATO, though, accepting Turkey with one of its membership's largest standing armies.
He garnered high praise as a reformer and basked in the admiration that came his way, presiding over a wealthier, more peaceful country on the verge of cleaning up its human rights record and soon to be invited into the EU. And then, everything began to fall apart. Cordial relations with the Syrian regime became impossible with an Alawite Bashar al Assad attacking his rebellious Sunni majority. And soon enough anger with Moscow's decision to enter Syria provoked the irascible Erdogan.
Who had already demonstrated how volatile he could be when his own citizens protested at Gezi Park and he set the military police on them. His subdued authoritarian penchant was divulged. And when corruption that was taking place with impunity in a party that publicly prided itself on its anti-corruption stance was made public by revelations implicating Erdogan's son and his cronies he struck hard and fast; the police, the judiciary, the journalists, the population found themselves purged.
The military had already faced his righteous wrath when he had senior members imprisoned, charged with plots to unseat him. He was transforming Turkey back into a vestige of its Ottoman Empire glory and he would become its timeless leader. Turkey's reputation in the West  has since also undergone a transformation, its brash negotiating blackmail with the EU to stem the tide of Syrian refugees, and Erdogan's pathological hounding of his critics betrayed his aspirations as a modern-day caliph.
One beset and embattled by Western cabals plotting against him, enlisting "agents" of nefarious intent in Turkey in their campaign to tarnish the great man ensconced in his sumptuous palace befitting the stature of a caliph. When the Turkish generals, determined to preserve Turkey's secular-type society and governance attempted to keep the A.K.P. from power they paid the price once it attained power. But in the process the A.K.P. presented itself as democracy-bound.
They were intent on acquiring EU status for Turkey by moving it unerringly in the direction of liberal democracy. And so liberal reforms were enacted and above all the liberal rhetoric that was so beloved of the West. No longer would the state not recognize citizens' rights. A new perspective on Kurdish nationalism was to be viewed as authoritarian-resistance. Given greater rights and freedoms the Kurds would surrender their aspirations toward autonomy and an eventual state of their own.
All so very persuasive. Once the electoral victories were achieved, alongside a subdued military there was a gradual relaxation of liberal rhetoric to be replaced by social conservatism of the type that marks the existence of Islamist rule. When popular dissent challenged the A.K.P. in 2013 it responded by a more authoritarian stance by Mr. Erdogan. And the A.K.P. revealed itself to be the aspiring Islamist tyranny that it had kept under wraps.
Those who support Mr. Erdogan have been amply rewarded with wealth and recognition, and they have no intention of seeing it all fade away, so they are loyal not to the vision of a faded Turkish democracy, but to its replacement, a reflection of the glory of the Ottoman Republic. Welcome to the future. This is the Turkey we all know and deplore, the Turkey of Armenian vengeance, of Kurdish conflict, of a Cyprus challenge of Greek possession.

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