Thursday, 10 November 2016 00:00

The “Logic” of Turkey’s Repression

By Halil Karaveli

November 10, 2016, 

What is the logic behind the arrests of Kurdish politicians and of liberal and leftist journalists in Turkey? From the perspective of the Turkish regime, in the wake of the coup attempt it is imperative to restore the authority of the state, and to undo the political gains of the Kurdish movement. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is seconded by the leader of the far right, Devlet Bahçeli. The new “Nationalist front” that their parties have formed speaks to the sensibilities of the vast majority of Turks. However, what is being mobilized is a destructive national unity, attained at the expense of liberty. Ultimately, it may not serve the cause of a united Turkey.

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By Nicholas Danforth

October 17, 2016

Turkey's July 15 coup attempt has transformed the country's politics, and notably it has deepened a dangerous pre-existing dilemma. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan faces rival challenges from a Kurdish nationalist movement with a longstanding commitment to violence and a nationalistic Turkish electorate which opposes the concessions that will be necessary to make peace with the Kurds. This triangular tension means that Turkey will face a series of trade-offs, setting the country's embattled prospects for peace and democracy against one another.

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Hasan Cemal in t24 notes that Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım has stated that 1915 was “an ordinary event, something that happened during the First World War, and which was something that can happen in any country.” 1915 is not an ordinary event. It is “genocide.” Yet am I surprised that Yıldırım has made such a statement? Not really.  Today, we see an alliance of Islamists and nationalists forming.  Erdoğan has joined hands with Bahçeli (the MHP leader), Ergenekon, the military and the Kemalist nationalists. They all agree on nearly every issue, especially about the Kurdish issue and PKK. When the immunity of the parliamentarians was lifted, they also included Kılıçdaroğlu (the CHP leader) among their ranks. The question of 1915 is another point where they agree. This is a strange kind of Islamist-nationalist alliance. It is extremely dangerous. It is an alliance that is going to divide the country even more, and that will split it. It is a coalition that threatens to pave the way for a much more violent internal fighting, with political assassinations and provocations in its trail. And where is CHP in this “alliance?” There seems to be confusion in the party about its belonging. Yet it’s nonetheless obvious that the Kemalist nationalists in the party are appealed by this alliance when it comes to taking stands in the Kurdish issue, toward PKK, 1915, and the “parallel structure” (i.e. the Gülenists…) Turkey is charging fully ahead in the Islamist-nationalist coup process. Unless a democratic front is formed against it, it will inflict ever more pain on the country and cause much more bloodshed. 

By Halil Karaveli

June 6, 2016

The celebration of the conquest of Constantinople 1453 is an expression of Turkey’s quest for purity. The “ideology of conquest,” the need to symbolically and repeatedly reclaim what has been Ottoman and Turkish for centuries, ultimately speaks of an existential unease with a historical legacy that is marked by a heterogeneity that is unsettling for an authoritarian state that seeks uniformity. The need to celebrate the conquest of the most important city of the land shows that Turkey is yet to become reconciled with its past. Such reconciliation calls for assuming the entirety of what is a multi-layered historical legacy. Recognizing that Turkey is the result, not so much of conquest, as of a history of continuous mixing and assimilation of aboriginal cultures and state traditions, is also the key to coming to terms with country’s ethnic and cultural diversity today and securing a democratic future for Turkey.

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Murat Aksoy in Haberdar writes that politics in Turkey has historically not been defined by the left-right axis, but by an axis of change-status quo. And but for a few exceptions, politics in Turkey has been carried out within the realm of the state, that is, with a view to preserve status quo. During AKP’s first term, the party made politics with society, not the state, as its point of reference, which set it apart in the historical context. However, the Arab Spring, and the process that started after the 2011 general election, has resulted in the AKP embracing the state, abandoning society as its point of reference. The main opposition party is not different in this regard. If CHP is going to become a strong rival to Erdoğan/AKP, then the party needs to differentiate itself from statism: it must stand up for society and give voice to the different societal demands, instead of also having the state as its point of reference. And the way to do this is to build coalitions with the different societal sections and groups. CHP should take the initiative to build a democratic coalition, bringing together the victims of Erdoğan, the AKP and the state.

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Joint Center Publications

Op-ed Halil M. Karaveli "Assasination in Ankara"Foreign Affairs, January 3, 2017

Essay Halil M. Karaveli "Erdogan's Journey"Foreign Affairs, October 19, 2016

Op-ed Halil M. Karaveli "Turkey's Fractured State", The New York Times, August 1, 2016

Op-ed Svante E. Cornell "A botched coup and Turkey’s descent into madness", Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies, July 19, 2016

Article Halil M. Karaveli , "Turkey's Decline", Foreign Affairs, March 2, 2016.

Article Halil M. Karaveli , "La Turquie, est-elle destinée à durer?", Centre for International Policy Studies, January 27, 2016.

Monograph Eric Edelman, Svante Cornell, Aaron Lobel, Halil Karaveli, "Turkey Transformed: The Origins and Evolution of Authoritarianism and Islamization under the AKP", Bipartisan Policy Center, October 2015.

Article Svante E. Cornell and M.K. Kaya, "The Naqshbandi-Khalidi Order and Political Islam in Turkey", Current Trends in Islamist Ideology, September 2015.

Article Svante E. Cornell, "Understanding Turkey's Tilt", Journal of International Security Affairs, no. 27, Winter 2014.

Monograph Eric S. Edelman, Svante E. Cornell, Aaron Lobel, Michael Makovsky, The Roots of Turkish Conduct: Understanding the Evolution of Turkish Policy in the Middle East, Washington: Bipartisan Policy Center, December 2013.

The Turkey Analyst is a publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Joint Center, designed to bring authoritative analysis and news on the rapidly developing domestic and foreign policy issues in Turkey. It includes topical analysis, as well as a summary of the Turkish media debate.

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