I always thought that the right combination of idealism and realism was the best political position. One needs to be an idealist to be on the right track, to be on the side of the oppressed and to be able to imagine a better future for humanity. Nevertheless, it may turn out to be sheer naïveté if one fails to understand politics in realistic terms.
I supported Islamists wholeheartedly with my idealist side, and, at the same time, I never thought that they would be the perfect democrats. Moreover, I have always been critical of the conservative/Islamist understanding of democracy and freedoms. At the time they were being oppressed by the rigid secularist system, and it was correct to be on their side. Otherwise, everybody knows that power corrupts, even if it is no excuse. I was not unaware of this fact, yet I think one needs to examine the process of corruption by power in each case to understand what went really wrong.
In fact, “political power” is a complex process that the whole political system and society enforce interactively. First of all, Islamists was almost forced to believe that politics is all about power relations.
The secularist politics resisted against Islamists’ and conservatives’ demands for rights and freedoms up until they turned to be all powerful. This is a bitter lesson that the present government party got from the past. They realized that only power ensures their survival and once they become all-powerful, everybody surrenders to the will of the powerful. Such a lesson does not produce genuine democrats and democratization, as one would imagine.
The so-called “Feb. 28 process” became a court case last week as part of the policy of questioning of the dirty political past for the sake of the democratization process right after the start of Sept. 12, 1980, coup trials. Some consider these developments as healthy signs of democratization and others think that these are just political shows. I am in the latter category since it is not convincing to question the undemocratic past within the framework of the present conditions of strained democracy in Turkey. Besides, the trials and the process of questioning of the past are limited by sheer political calculations. So much so that sometimes it turns to be a chance to “whitewash” not only of some individuals but some past politics. Many supporters of the previous coups have cleaned their past by becoming keen supporters of the recent trials.
Such a process makes it possible for the opportunists of all kinds and all times to justify their past undemocratic words and deeds by the pressure of the military. Moreover, some most dark periods of Turkish political history, like the Kahramanmaraş and Sıvas incidents have begun to be considered simply as “provocations” of the army and the deep state and nothing more than that.
Finally, the Sept. 12 coup is on trial, but the political system that it created is still firm; worse, the political culture has not improved much. On the contrary, in some respects, it went backwards as in the rise of the ultranationalist discourse. The centuries-old paranoia that foreign powers (including the allies of Turkey) are working against the country has returned, and worse, it is ruining democracy and freedoms in Turkey since the dissidents are being thought of as “the friends of the enemies” once again.
For all these reasons, I am afraid that there is still a very long way to go. It is so sad for someone like me who especially witnessed the last 20 years as an active observer to realize that my realism was insufficient to grasp the realities of Turkey. Thank God, it does not stop me from remaining a political idealist in terms of political ethics.