By Gareth H. Jenkins (vol. 5, no. 9 of the Turkey Analyst)
On April 22, 2012, hundreds of thousands of people gathered in the center of Diyarbakır, the largest city in the predominantly Kurdish southeast of Turkey, for a celebration of the Prophet Muhammad’s birth. The event was organized by a coalition of NGOs affiliated with the radical Sunni Islamist organization known in Turkey as Hizbullah (which is unrelated to the Lebanese Shia organization with the same name), which many assumed to have been crippled by the killing of its founder Hüseyin Velioğlu in January 2000. However, Hizbullah’s ability to mobilize such a huge number of people suggests that it has not only recovered but is now stronger than ever. Its ability to combine a strong commitment to conservative Islamic values with an advocacy of Kurdish cultural and political rights looks set to pose a serious challenge not only to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) but also to more secular Kurdish organizations such as the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
By M. Kemal Kaya and Halil M. Karaveli (vol. 5, no. 7 of the Turkey Analyst)
The passage of the bill that remolds compulsory education in Turkey erases the legacy of the secularist military intervention fifteen years ago. But although the move of the government of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) ideologically reverses the intervention in 1997, in tactical terms it replicates it. It deploys a similar tactic to check the influence of a power challenger. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has taken on both the secularist constituency and the Gülenist part of the Islamic constituency. It may be that new political alliances, like the ones that were once triggered by the military, besides further strife, are what the future has in store for Turkey.
By Gareth H. Jenkins (vol. 5, no. 7 of the Turkey Analyst)
On 21 March 2012, Turkish government officials began briefing trusted journalists on what they described as the new strategy of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) for solving the country’s long-running Kurdish problem. As more details emerged over the days that followed, it became clear that, far from raising hopes of future success, the AKP’s “new strategy” was more reminiscent of past failures; namely the discredited policies of denial and confrontation that had not only failed to resolve the Kurdish issue but had played a key role in boosting popular support for the violent insurgency of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
By Halil M. Karaveli (vol. 5, no. 6 of the Turkey Analyst)
Is there a third way for Turkey, one that would offer an escape from the statist and nationalist authoritarianism to which both Kemalism and Islamism condemns the country? While the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has increasingly come to embrace an illiberal approach, the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) is attempting to move in the opposite direction. However, the assumption that there is still a significant constituency for liberal change to tap into, as was the case a decade ago, when the AKP first came to power and when EU membership beckoned, is a dubious one. History teaches that it is unlikely that Turkey, left to its own devices, will emancipate from illiberalism.
By M. Kemal Kaya and Svante E. Cornell (vol. 5, no. 5 of the Turkey Analyst)
When a special prosecutor attempted to bring in five high intelligence officers (including the head of Turkish intelligence) for questioning, he also cracked the veneer of the AKP’s supposedly consolidated hold on power in the country. Indeed, developments in Turkey since Sadrettin Sarıkaya issued his subpoenas have shown with all clarity a deep split in the ranks of the informal coalition on which the AKP bases its power. That split had thus far been growing but never openly manifested; now, a power struggle between the AKP and the Gülen movement is unraveling. It is unlikely to be easily bridged.
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.