By Svante E. Cornell
July 20, 2016
The failed military coup in Turkey provides a window into just how unstable and vulnerable Turkey has become. The coup is a unique but not isolated event, more than anything a symptom of the decay of Turkish state institutions under Erdogan. The sizable post-coup repression will make matters worse, in fact increasing rather than decreasing the risk of further violence, including a new coup. Turkey is now more a problem in its own right than an ally to help solve regional problems.
Fatih Yaşlı in Birgün writes that the alliance between the supposed “vanguard of secularism” – the military – and political Islam, which historically was motivated by a shared desire to beat the left, has a long pedigree. The military entered into a pragmatic relationship with the political representatives of religion during the Cold War. One example was when the military after the coup in 1971 asked Necmettin Erbakan to return from his exile in Switzerland to found a new Islamist party. Yet for many years, the Islamists accused – not the military as an institution, but its top echelon – of being alien to the national culture and of being westernized. But this relation has now evolved. There is now a military that the Islamists can much easier embrace; the military is no longer viewed as being alien to “national values,” and is seen as the “army of the nation.” The fight against the PKK has deepened the relationship between Islamism and the military. We have now a “militarist Islam” that has appropriated the army and which is supporting the war. And the military has also changed, and is continuing to change, which presents us with an “Islamic militarism.” It is claimed that the lower echelons of the officers’ corps is becoming dominated by religious officers. It is also claimed that there is a similar process ongoing among the higher echelons, albeit less so. The one area that symbolizes the confluence of “militarist Islam” and “Islamic militarism” is the “national defense industry.” The character of the regime and its political economy was expressed in the fact that the president’s new son-in-law hails from one of the important families of this sector, and was underlined by the fact that the chief of the general staff acted wedding witness. That was a tremendous demonstration of the zeitgeist.
Levent Gültekin in Diken writes that many people that he has met recently all wonder why intellectuals, businessmen, the “reasonable people” of the country don’t come together to lead a societal opposition. There are a couple of reasons for this. The first is the widespread expectation that something is going to happen, which will change the course of the country, and which will lead to the departure of Erdoğan. Many people refrain from sticking out their necks because they assume that Erdoğan is anyway going to run into the wall someday. The second reason is that no really strong and influential class of democratic intellectuals has formed in this country. The third, and the most important reason, is that the opposition is mostly made up of leftists and liberals. The right -- the nationalists-conservatives-Islamists -- is beholden to the government. Some think opposing it would only serve the interests of the PKK, others see it as damaging the “government of the pious.” Thus, the mission to bring life to societal opposition mostly falls on leftist and liberal intellectuals. But the left is itself torn apart by long-standing divisions.
By Gareth H. Jenkins
June 24, 2016
There is currently no clear indication as to when President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will leave power but Turkey is now deep into the final – and highly turbulent – stage of his domination of the country’s politics. Even though some features have remained unchanged, Erdoğan has undoubtedly left a lasting impression on both the Turkish state and Turkish society. The fear now is that, as he descends deeper into authoritarianism, Erdoğan will also cause severe damage not only to the social fabric but to what has always been an incipient rather than an established democracy.
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.
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.