By Gareth H. Jenkins
June 24, 2016
There is currently no clear indication as to when President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will leave power but Turkey is now deep into the final – and highly turbulent – stage of his domination of the country’s politics. Even though some features have remained unchanged, Erdoğan has undoubtedly left a lasting impression on both the Turkish state and Turkish society. The fear now is that, as he descends deeper into authoritarianism, Erdoğan will also cause severe damage not only to the social fabric but to what has always been an incipient rather than an established democracy.
Mehmet Altan in Özgür Düşünce writes that the traditional rivalry between the mosque and the barracks has given way to a coalition, and that there are those who fear that Turkey is headed toward a “Baathist” regime, in which the military and security apparatus controls the economy. With the exponential growth of the defense industry, some suggest that the military has come to enjoy unprecedented access to financial resources… Will the mosque-barracks alliance then last? Will the rapid increase of wealth in military ranks lead the military to change the position (toward the mosque) that it has had since the beginning of the 19th century? It’s doubtful. It appears that political Islamist fascism has become so desperate that it has had to cling to its historical rival. This inevitably increases the power of the military. It looks as if the military, which briefly appeared to have lost its traditional sovereignty, wants its old power back, now that democracy has been abandoned. The question is if the military after a while is going to want to hold all the reins in its hands and return us to an even harsher period of “tutelage?”
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.
Etyen Mahçupyan in Karar writes that Turkey is making a mistake, assuming that it has solved the Kurdish issue after having defeated the PKK militarily in the war of the trenches, and because the Kurdish society has not come out in support of the PKK in this war. In fact, the picture is not at all that “rosy…” Where would we have been today, if the people of the region had lent support to the PKK in this, the latest phase of the insurrection? It is obvious that this would have brought with it a general war that could have spread all across the country. Let’s not forget that the reason why this popular support failed to materialize was because people found PKK’s call for a “popular war” unreasonable, and because people realized that war would cause unbearable pain. It was not because it thought highly of the government that it refrained from following the PKK. Now, what do you think will happen if the PKK one day makes a demand that does appear “reasonable and just” to the people? This is something that the state must make preparations to avoid. We need to keep in mind what is the sine qua non for a lasting and healthy solution of the Kurdish issue: a solution needs to bring with it a unity that the Kurdish people in the region believe is rightful, just and livable. If the demand for a status for the Kurdish people is not satisfied, the country will face chaos. Today, we have to see that ninety percent of the youth in the region feel an affinity with the PKK. To this, you can add the trauma caused in families after the thousands of deaths in the war during the last year. For each day, the Kurdish identity and consciousness grow stronger, and while people don’t necessarily use the same terminology as the PKK, there is nonetheless a strong popular endorsement of the demand for a “status” and an expectation that this will be realized. Turkey doesn’t have the time for wait for a new constitution. We urgently need a package for “societal unity.”
Kadri Gürsel in Cumhuriyet notes that in the new war that started in July 2015, cities inside Turkey’s border are being demolished. More than twenty years ago, it was the villages that were burnt down and emptied of their inhabitants. The path that was to lead on to the new war of destructing the cities was engaged in the fall of 2013. In September 2013, PKK accused Ankara of not taking necessary steps in the peace process and declared that it was halting the withdrawal of its armed elements from Turkey. After this, both sides used the so called process to gain time to improve their own position. Yet, a real and dynamic political solution process was necessary in order to bring about a positive and permanent change of PKK’s violent political culture. The solution process was a fake and for this reason, the natural inclination of PKK – in accordance with its goal of autonomy – was to organize an armed, urban resistance, and engage in the “war of the trenches.” The method that the regime chose to dislodge the PKK and its base from the cities is the worst possible one in terms of the future of the country. The scorched earth tactic of the 1990’s is carried on with burnt down and erased cities. When the villages were burnt down, their inhabitants flocked to the cities where HDP’s vote is around ninety percent. Time will tell what we will face now that these cities in turn have been erased. This is not a sustainable policy. If the holders of state power persist with this attitude, they might one day decide to target the people directly, after first having targeted their villages and now their cities. Then, Turkey will become unsustainable. That’s what I fear.
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.