By Halil Karaveli
April 5, 2016
The outsize personality of President Erdoğan obscures the systemic dynamics that sustain his exercise of power. Erdoğan’s push for an executive presidency corresponds to the “logic” of Turkish state power. Erdoğan’s personal ambitions and raison d’état coincide to reinforce authoritarianism. Ultimately, democracy in Turkey is crippled because no major political force, representing the Turkish majority, challenges the dominant mentality that holds that the survival of the state requires the checking of ethnic and cultural diversity.
Sezin Öney on the Haberdar news site notes that President Erdoğan on March 11 stated that “We are going to build a new Southeast.” It seems that the state is executing a specific project. Since last summer, a “military-civilian coalition” or what should perhaps more accurately be called a “comradeship-in-arms” has been established at the highest echelons of the state. The different elements of this coalition or comradeship may not see eye to eye on every issue, but there seems to be an agreement between them regarding the execution of a specific project aiming at the reconfiguration of the Southeast. Why was the need felt to send in all the elements of the security forces, deploying excessive violence, into the city centers? The area is being “cleaned,” to use military terminology. According to the estimates of the Union of the Municipalities of the Southeast, close to two hundred thousand people have migrated – whether temporarily or permanently -- from the urban areas that are subjected to military operations. Meanwhile, the Human Rights Association suggests that the internal migration could possibly number around three hundred to four hundred thousand people. The military operations that have led to this refugee flow seem to be the expression of the “allergy” of the state to Kurdish developments: first the “democratic autonomy” that was declared in Rojava and subsequently the fact that HDP crossed the threshold to parliament in the June 7, 2015 general election. It seems that “raison d’état” calls for a “cordon sanitaire” in order to contain what the state fears is a “contagion” of Kurdish identity and political aspirations. The policy of “erase and rebuild” seems to be a way of driving away the Kurdish population from the region, to simply discourage it from continuing to live there; is some kind of deportation also part and parcel of the state policy? Is the state maybe also entertaining a plan to create a different demographic structure in the region?
Fehim Işık on the news site Haberdar writes that political Islam, represented by AKP and Erdoğan has succeeded in bringing Kemalist nationalism, represented by Baykal (the former CHP leader) and the Turkic nationalism of MHP together on the shared ground of enmity against the Kurds. And by pulling the army fully to his side, Erdoğan is aiming to make his power eternal. Can he do it? I don’t belong to those who believe that the Kemalist forces of the status quo, sustained by the army, are ever going to offer that opportunity to Erdoğan. That is so because the military and the defenders of status quo are not only against the Kurds but also against the pious. At one point, this alliance is going to end, and it is the Erdoğan side of it that is set to sustain the heavy blow. The military is not going to switch allegiance. It is possible to predict that Kemalist nationalism and Turkic racism are going to be the winners.
Ahmet Altan on the news site Haberdar writes that the army and AKP are working in tandem. Maybe the army is seeking to obtain what it has been trying to do for years by mobilizing the AKP – with its vast majority – behind it. This could be a dream come true for the army, that it now thanks to AKP and its majority can crush the Kurds, the leftists and the religious conservatives outside of AKP so handily. And it could be that AKP is thinking that it makes sense to cooperate with the army in order to force the Kurds to accept a presidential system, to silence its opponents, and wipe out the other religious conservatives from the field. But beware, while cooperating, you run the risk of turning into the force with which you cooperate. While the AKP is turning into an image of the old state, the military is becoming more like the AKP. The daily Cumhuriyet has recently exposed how the army is collaborating with ISIS at the Syrian border. The conservative base of the AKP will not long take the “militarization” of the party; in fact, that is one of the reasons behind the internal fissures that are slowly becoming visible. Meanwhile, the attempt to turn the army into an AKP army could have truly disastrous consequences in terms of the internal cohesion of the military. The Turkish army could split like the Lebanese army.
Ergun Babahan on the news site Özgür Düşünce writes that AKP’s antagonistic policies against Muslims and Kurds are at a par with the oppression that has historically been associated with CHP, the founding party of the republic. In fact what is happening can be viewed as “mopping up” actions by the state which uses the AKP as its tool. The Kurds and the Gülen movement are seen as enemies by the state. AKP are doing the bidding of the state by terrorizing girls in headscarf and by being the standard-bearer of the policy of extermination against the Kurds. But make no mistake, for the state the AKP is nothing but a tissue that is used and which will be discarded when it’s no longer needed. In the 1990’s, the military had had to pay for what was done against Kurds and Muslims, and this was what paved the way for the ascent of AKP to power. This time, it will not be the military, but the president, the prime minister and the other AKP leaders who are going to be held responsible for the breaches of law and the violations of human rights. What we are witnessing in Şırnak, Cizre and Sur shows that the state has decided to destroy the Kurdish cities and empty them of their inhabitants. This is the 1915 model adapted to the conditions of our time, and it could set off an exodus of Turkey’s Kurds toward Europe.
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.