Wednesday, 28 May 2014

What the Columnists Say

Published in Roundup of Columnists
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The explosion at the Soma coal mine that claimed the lives of three hundred workers has led some to critical comments against the neo-liberal economic regime in Turkey. Hasan Cemal, a liberal commentator, argues that it’s time to revisit long-forgotten notions like social justice and he questions the wisdom of totally expelling the state from the economy. The rising tensions in Turkish society are of great concern for many commentators. Oral Çalışlar, a liberal, warns that Turkey is drifting toward chaos. And although he does not hold Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan solely responsible for this dangerous drift, he nonetheless argues that Erdoğan’s reactions exacerbate the polarization and he urges him to take steps that ease the tensions. Yüksel Taşkın, a social democratic academic and columnist, accuses the AKP government of having intentionally alienated the Alevis and he warns that especially the Alevi youth has become a powder keg that is ready to blow up.

ÇALIŞLAR: IT’S TIME TO EASE THE TENSIONS – TURKEY RISKS DRIFTING TOWARD CHAOS

Even if there is no danger of a military coup looming on the horizon now, Turkish society is about to become ungovernable, writes Oral Çalışlar in Radikal. The one person that has the chief responsibility for making sure that society can escape the current polarization is the prime minister; he is the one who can make a singular, decisive difference. Since the Gezi events, something has happened with Tayyip Erdoğan, with the way he reacts to criticism. He has come to view every objection, every protest as being part of a conspiracy against him and he reacts accordingly. Turkey faces the danger of drifting into chaos. It may be superficial to claim that Tayyip Erdoğan is the one who is responsible for this dangerous drift.  One of sources of the tension is the despair and anger that (some) of the seculars feel over having lost their superior position in society.  It is obvious that this picture infuriates Tayyip Erdoğan. Some circles have indeed devoted themselves to getting rid of Tayyip Erdoğan at any cost. We can see that there are those who share the same goal in the West as well. However, the way that Erdoğan responds only serves to exacerbate the tensions and the polarization. Now it’s time to pull the brakes. The prime minister needs to act first and show the way. And of course, the opposition has also got to contribute its part.

BAYRAMOĞLU: THE SAME MENTALITY THAT PRODUCED THE 1960 COUP IS STILL ALIVE TODAY

Writing on the anniversary of the May 27, 1960 military coup, Ali Bayramoğlu in Yeni Şafak notes that May 27 occupies a very strong place especially in the memory of conservatives in Turkey. The policies of the Democrat Party (that was overthrown in the coup) represented a first in the country; the DP let out religion from the narrow space into which it had been confined, and it eased the severe repression that had weighed on the pious during the one party regime. But what the governance of the Democrat Party above all represented was without doubt a class-related change. Today Turkey is going through a comprehensive change, which is making the country civilian. Things like May 27 no longer come to mind. Yet there is nonetheless a similarity between one aspect of May 27 and the current situation. That is the reaction to the class-related change; this elitist reaction expresses itself in many different guises. The source of a part of the criticisms that are leveled against the AK Party is still this class-based reaction to the rise of a new middle class. In other words, the criticism against the government is not only about the recent expressions of authoritarianism; it also reflects the fact that the rise of a new class is experienced as such a big nuisance.

TAŞKIN: THE AKP HAS TURNED THE ALEVI YOUTH INTO A POWDER KEG THAT IS READY TO BLOW UP

Yüksel Taşkın in Taraf comments on the killing of an Alevi citizen who was shot to death by the police at the premises of an Alevi house of worship in Istanbul. The AKP government has from the start treated the Alevis as illegitimate members of the society. In that sense, it continued and further developed the policies against the Alevis that have put their stamp on the Ottoman-Republican eras. As a whole, the Alevis, and especially the Alevi youth, have experienced a significant alienation during the AKP era and their sense of vulnerability has increased. To the perception that the current regime sees them as illegitimate has been added the belief that the cadres of the state have been intentionally closed to them. The sectarian mentality of the government has turned the Alevi youth into a powder keg that is ready to blow up.

CERRAHOĞLU: IT IS THE PSYCHOLOGY OF THE TURKISH VOTER THAT NEEDS TO BE EXPLAINED

Commenting on the behavior of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan after the Soma mine explosion, Nilgün Cerrahoğlu in Cumhuriyet writes that from now on, the world is going to think of the Turks as a people that voluntarily votes for the one who abuses it. As I see it, what is more problematic than Erdoğan’s state of mind is the state of our psychology as a nation. The fact that Erdoğan’s presidency still remains a strong probability, despite the general picture, is something that calls for an investigation of the psychology of the Turkish voter. After all, I can easily understand that Erdoğan has come to lose his “connection with reality” as a consequence of the poison of power. We have now only the ballot box left; but it may not be of any avail. As the miners in Soma have admitted, they were forced to vote for the AKP or else they were threatened that they were going to lose their jobs. This shows how the ballot box is unfortunately being expropriated with threats. Step by step, we are heading toward the unavoidable end. It’s such a pity!

CEMAL: IT’S TIME TO REIN IN RAW CAPITALISM

Hasan Cemal on the t24 news site writes that the Soma mine tragedy has brought back to life some truths that he says were forgotten after the fall of communism. We now appreciate that trying to expel the state totally from the economy is not a solution. We now realize that state interventions in the economy – of course within limits – have beneficiary effects.  The importance of not letting things like the welfare state, social market economy and social justice just remain empty words is now better appreciated. When Özal introduced free market economics in the 1980s, when he delivered a fatal blow to statism in the economy, he did the right thing. But from the 1980s to the 2000s, Turkey forgot all about the welfare state, social justice, solidarity and the social measures that these notions call for. The Soma massacre is the result of this terrible oblivion. The Soma massacre is a typical, brutal example of “violent capitalism.”

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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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