Wednesday, 22 October 2014

What the Columnists Say

Published in Roundup of Columnists

Several columnists express concern over Turkey’s future after the violent clashes in the Kurdish parts of the country and the government’s reaction to them. Cengiz Çandar writes that the leadership of the country has not learnt the right lessons and that it is mistaken in thinking that police state methods are going to save the day. Yetvart Danzikyan warns that the methods of the AKP government are inflaming ethnic and sectarian tensions and that the situation could get out of hand. Abdülkadir Selvi writes that Turkey is not going to give in to the pressures of the United States regarding the use of its bases in the fight against ISIS and reminds that Turkey demands that the Sunnis in Syria and Iraq are empowered and that the Assad regime in Syria is removed from power.


Cengiz Çandar in Radikal writes that he wants to repeat that he feels deeply worried about Turkey’s future. My worry is being sustained by the incredible attitude of the power holders. The new prime minister has promised to order “5, 10 Toma (the armored vehicle used by the Turkish police), instead of 1.” The deputy prime minister vows to “bring the world down on their (the Kurdish protesters) heads,” at a moment when the country has turned into a powder keg. The first action of the ruling party after the start of the reopening of parliament is a blueprint for a law that is quite problematic from the standpoint of rights and freedoms and which would take the country far toward a “police regime.” It is clear that the power holders have not learnt the necessary lessons from recent events, and that they are bent on securing their power by policies that give priority to security measures and by a threatening language. It’s if as they are on purpose dragging Turkey toward a very dangerous path. A significant part of the Kurds in Turkey are in a state of terrible disappointment as a result of the impression they’ve got concerning the intentions of the government, after Kobani; they are ready to flare up at the first touch.


Yetvart Danzikyan in Agos observes that recent events (with violent clashes in Turkey’s Kurdish areas) have led many to conclude that Turkey’s Kurdish issue is about to revert to the situation of the 1990s. What they mean by this is harsh policies of the government against the Kurds and that the security forces with impunity keep up the pressure against the Kurdish opposition. In addition, what is envisioned is that Hizbullah, which continues to be suspected of being the instrument of the state, once again starts to attack the Kurdish opposition, provoking counter-violence. The government’s pattern of reaction when it encounters any kind of challenge is well-known since the Gezi protests: to attack the dynamic with full force; to activate all societal, ethnic and sectarian fault lines; unrestrained civil war mongering; threats that the Kurds will be dealt with the “stick.” What is Erdoğan achieving with this method? What is clear is that he is at least preserving the AKP’s level of support, and that threats against the AKP are neutralized. But that is not the only thing that is happening. The ethnic, sectarian and societal fault lines that are being exploited every time are accumulating tension. Maybe Erdoğan and those around him are confident that no matter how much the state provokes society, civil war is not going to break out. However, this way of dealing with crisis leaves behind a tortuous legacy and in any case we are already experiencing instances of a civil war-like situation. Meanwhile, it is also clear that the AKP state is ready to engage in all kinds of shady activities in an “operational” sense. The attack against the police in Bingöl and the subsequent killings of four people is as a very suspect incident. On top of it, the incident was met with the statement of the government – “They (the assailants) were immediately punished” – that condones lynching.


Abdülkadir Selvi in Yeni Şafak writes that Turkey, as part of the fight against ISIS, is going through a process with the United States that resembles the negotiations that preceded the 2003 Iraq war [when the U.S. asked for permission to use Turkish territory.] Just as they did before, the Americans are trying to create the impression that things that are being negotiated have already been settled. With these tactics in the negotiation process they are trying to bloc Turkey. We are used to these methods of the Americans. We understand that the United States is very keen about two things: First, the U.S. wants to pull Turkey into combat on the ground, and second it wants to use of the İncirlik air base. Our priorities however, are different. To solve the ISIS problem and in order to normalize Iraq and Syria, Turkey demands that the Sunni Arabs be justly included in the governments of these two countries, and that the Assad regime in Syria be ended.


Kadri Gürsel in Milliyet writes that “precious loneliness” was a term that was invented in August 2013 by the then chief advisor to the prime minister, İbrahim Kalın, in order to make the Turkish public forgive the government for the dramatic isolation that it had brought upon Turkey in the Middle East. Since then, Turkey’s loneliness in the Middle East has become even more accentuated. And as a sign that this isolation is becoming global, Turkey suffered a humiliating defeat when the UN General Assembly voted on its temporary seat on the UN Security Council, something the assembly had generously accorded us in 2008. This is a very dangerous loneliness. When assessed together with the ISIS threat, the loneliness of Turkey takes on a very dangerous aspect. That is so because while the unwillingness of the AKP-ruled Turkey to engage in the fight against ISIS isolates it from the Western alliance, and more generally from the civilized world, the internal peace of the country is endangered as a consequence of the fall-out from the Kobani war. And the fact that Ankara still depicts PYD – which the United States is helping to withstand the attack of ISIS by aerial force, and which is thus being accorded legitimacy – as equally terrorist as PKK is also a factor that deepens this dangerous loneliness.


Emre Kongar in Cumhuriyet writes that the AKP’s model of “moderate Islam,” which used to be its main asset in electoral terms and in its foreign relations, has broken down. The internal collapse of the model has become evident with the regression of the basic rights and freedoms, with the subjugation of the judiciary to the political power, with the pressure on media and with slowing down of the economy. The external collapse meanwhile was amply demonstrated at the United Nations when the 151 votes in 2008 in favor of Turkey getting a temporary seat on the UN Security Council remained at 60. Not only has the “model” collapsed; equally, the grand alliance of AKP, the Gülen fraternity, the United States and the European Union has broken down too. Faced with this breakdown, the AKP is trying to hold on to power by dated Cold War methods, by accusations of treason and the methods of the police state. Yet, the foundations of its power are already undermined by its unreliable foreign policy, by its operations to cover up corruption, by the oppressive methods that shelve democracy and by its inability to manage the peace process (with the Kurds.) What’s left is just to wait for time and democratic processes to do their work.

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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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