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.

Ali Bulaç in Yarına Bakış writes that Turkey had the chance to provide a model of successful Islamist governance, and asks why it failed. Turkey could have been different, but unfortunately it didn’t happen. If every group had shown the maturity of sharing the work of governing with each other, while at the same time conserving their autonomy, then the process that started in 2002 would have ended with making Turkey a role model for the Middle East. We have to concede that the Muslims were unable to share power, and that they failed to construct a just power. They have forfeited nearly all of the gains that were made since 1960; indeed, the gains relating to freedoms and rights that had been obtained since parliamentary democracy was established in 1950 have been surrendered. This has more than one reason. Two principal reasons stand out: The first is the incompatibility between the two strands of Islam in Turkey that has never been surmounted, between the National Outlook movement and the Nurcu strand or strands; the other reason is that the religious fraternities, as soon as they glimpsed the light of power in the 21st century, reverted to the Ottoman tradition of seeing themselves as the prolongation of the state in society and engaged in a race to become the state’s most privileged group. Meanwhile, Muslim intellectuals quickly embraced the opportunity of becoming the official servants of the state. Anyone who chooses Turkey as model will repeat this mistake.

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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Op-ed S. Frederick Starr, Brenda Shaffer and Svante E. Cornell, How the U.S. Promotes Extremism in the Name of Religious FreedomForeign Affairs, August 24, 2017

Op-ed Lawrence Stutzriem and Svante Cornell "Turkey and Qatar's Support for Extremist Groups", Realcleardefense, May 23, 2017

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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.

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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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