By M. Kemal Kaya and Halil M. Karaveli (vol. 5, no. 16 of the Turkey Analyst)
The Arab upheavals that are rocking the Middle East are indirectly contributing to arresting Turkey’s democratic evolution. Turkey’s embroilment in the Sunni-Shiite confrontation in the Middle East has invited Iran and Syria to exploit and exacerbate its Kurdish problem. That in turn strengthens the right-wing nationalist drift of Turkey, making the prospect of democratic reform even more elusive than it already was. Instead of the Middle East becoming more Turkish, Turkey may ultimately become more Middle Eastern.
By Halil M. Karaveli (vol. 5, no. 15 of the Turkey Analyst)
Turkey would make a significant contribution to the resolution of the Syrian crisis if it could bring itself to rise above the sectarian considerations that have dictated its regime change policy in Syria. So far, however, Turkey’s intervention in the Syrian civil war has demonstrated how Turkey’s lack of “democratic depth” disables a constructive foreign policy in the service of stability and democratic reform in a region that was supposed to be Turkey’s “strategic depth”.
By Halil M. Karaveli (vol. 5, no. 10 of the Turkey Analyst)
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently expressed allegiance to “one nation, one flag, one religion, one state.” Indeed, the Turkish republic recognizes only “one religion”, Sunni Islam, as the basis of the nation. Erdoğan is nonetheless anxious to preserve the image that he has successfully cultivated as the benefactor of the numerically insignificant non-Muslim minorities in Turkey. What the ruling Sunni conservatives have much greater difficulty in reconciling themselves to, is that Turkey, although nominally “99 percent Muslim” is far from being homogenously Sunni Muslim.
By Gareth H. Jenkins (vol. 5, no. 9 of the Turkey Analyst)
On April 22, 2012, hundreds of thousands of people gathered in the center of Diyarbakır, the largest city in the predominantly Kurdish southeast of Turkey, for a celebration of the Prophet Muhammad’s birth. The event was organized by a coalition of NGOs affiliated with the radical Sunni Islamist organization known in Turkey as Hizbullah (which is unrelated to the Lebanese Shia organization with the same name), which many assumed to have been crippled by the killing of its founder Hüseyin Velioğlu in January 2000. However, Hizbullah’s ability to mobilize such a huge number of people suggests that it has not only recovered but is now stronger than ever. Its ability to combine a strong commitment to conservative Islamic values with an advocacy of Kurdish cultural and political rights looks set to pose a serious challenge not only to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) but also to more secular Kurdish organizations such as the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
By Kadri Gürsel (vol. 4, no. 13 of the Turkey Analyst)
Polarizing the society over religious and cultural identities has been the power tactic of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) almost all along. That tactic once again worked to the benefit of the AKP in the recent general election. But the daunting constitutional challenge that Turkey now faces requires an ability to reach across divides of identity. The new, difficult parliamentary arithmetic in a highly divided political terrain heralds tough times as the new Turkey searches for its soul.
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.