Tuesday, September 3, 2013


Ghassan Kadi
June 1 2013

Is Erdogan on the brink of a popular uprising? It is too early to answer this question accurately. Time will tell. The bigger question to ask however is what is in store for Turkey whether Erdogan steps down or not.

Today’s Turkey is the c...ountry that has lost WWI and it faced a similar fate to the Austrian Empire had it not been for the genius of Ataturk who capitalized on his win in the battle of Canakkale to become a popular leader and hence the father and founder of the Turkish Republic.

But Ataturk was a man of great vision. He realized that Turkey was longer able to be an empire, and he had to accept the terms of defeat and transform them into a victory. He quickly decided to declare cease fire with the Allies and by abolishing the Ottoman Empire, he had enough international back up to have the world acknowledging the new republic as a neutral country in the war.

Ataturk had to also build a new nation from a very big, ancient, diverse and decaying old empire. Nationalism and secularism were key factors, and he capitalized on them in the best manner possible known and available to him. Turkey was modernized, re-birthed, and the cultural ethnic and sectarian mosaic in Turkey were all employed as integral parts of the new nation building. Ataturk however did not achieve his objectives in a realistic all-inclusive fashion. His obsession with Turkish nationalism was taken to brutal extremes against Armenians, Kurds and Syrian Arabs among others. The least draconian of his actions was to rob away the identity of those people and to force them to stop using their own languages and even names. This is not to mention persecutions and even genocides. In the end, whilst he and his legacy managed to create “stability” and unity, this was wrought with strong feelings of unfairness and unsettled scores in the hearts of minorities, a state that was akin to Tito’s Yugoslavia.

To bolster his stronghold, Ataturk gave a special emphasis to the army, and this is least surprising given that he was an army general. He realized that the army is a unifying tool that has the potential to unify people and to form a safe-guard against politics and any forms of divisiveness.

The Turkish military had the constitutional right to launch military coup d’etat if/when governments acted against the interest of the country. The army acted on this on a number of occasions.

Edrogan scrapped this legislation and appointed army chiefs who are loyal to him. But this is not all. He is quickly moving the country from a modern secular state into one that is Islamic, and more seriously, one that is getting involved in stirring up sectarian and ethnic unrest in Syria between sects and ethnicities that form a major proportion of the Turkish community.

The military is no longer capable to intervene and Turkey now is literally incapable of dealing with the uprising, if it is indeed an uprising. If the recent events develop into un uprising, Erdogan will try to hang on to power, supported by his Islamist base. As a result, the dis-enchanted elements of the growing divides between the Turkish Halkler ( Turkish for peoples of Turkey rather than Turkish people) will widen further, and so will the divide between the liberal secular Turks and the Islamists who did not only bring back the Hijab under Erdogan, but are trying to impose anti-alcohol laws to a nation that loves Raki and Bira.

It seems that Erdogan has destroyed or just about to destroy all the positive things that Ataturk has built and the main elements that give the Turkish fabric its strength and unity. Turkey is now damned to keep him in power (let alone re-elect him) and damned if it doesn’t. His likely demise may bring an avalanche of unrest as the empowered Islamists will refuse to let go of their gains. On the other hand, the liberal seculars and the minorities who feel threatened by his reckless policies no longer feel that he is the right man on the helm. The divide between the two dipoles is getting stronger with every day that goes by whilst the Syrian unrest continues to be underway.

If he gets toppled, a new Turkish government will have a mammoth job to do re-uniting its people and restoring law and order.

What happens next in Syria will have many direct implications to what happens next in Turkey, and unless Erdogan makes a 180 degree turn and sees that Turkey’s interests are in support of a secular Syria under Bashar, the fire in Syria will reach Turkey. Either way, whether Erdogan remains steadfast with his anti-Syrian policies or makes a U-turn, his future does not look very bright.

What is most pertinent is for the good Turkish people to make the right decisions and to realize that their interests are more regional that global. They should also understand that their regional interests can only be guaranteed if they see that they are regional partners and not regional colonialists. The time of the Ottoman Empire is long gone.

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