Turkishness and Turkey

Turkishness and Turkey

Following President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s call to remove “Turkish” from the names of the Turkish Medical Association and the Union of Turkish Bar Associations, based on the assumption that they have not supported “Operation Olive Branch” into Syria, debates have turned to the concepts of “Turkishness” and “Turkey.”

In the past only those who were distant from the two concepts tended to enter discussions about them. But now these two concepts have been brought into debates thanks to a suggestion that they be denied to certain groups! 

Apparently the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB) will be able to its name just the same. The Turkish Red Crescent, the Turkish Green Crescent Society and the Turkish Football Federation will also continue as before. But instead of the “Union of Turkish Bar Associations” only the “Union of Bar Associations” will be used from now on. What’s more, any group that wants will be entitled to set up their own “Union of Bar Associations.” 

Identity bars

We will surely now see the emergence of several bar associations with various ideological and political identities. 

It seems that Turkey has yet to complete its cultural integration and has not yet been able to become a “nation” to the extent of more developed countries. As a result identities, regions, religious sects and even constitutional concepts are now subject to fierce political polemics. 

We have apparently started quarreling about political meanings even related to legal concepts already clarified by jurisprudence. And this is happening at a time when many like to complain about “identity politics.” 

Throughout this process, ill-tempered politics and polarization are only exacerbated. 

Will not various different divided regional, political, faith-based, ethnical and ideological bar associations now inevitably emerge? 

When foreign delegations arrive

Occupational organizations are certainly not private clubs founded of their own will and able to select their members according to certain political or social definitions. 

The Union of Turkish Bar Associations, which sets and certifies various documents and procedures related to the profession of attorneyship, is an occupational organization just like the TOBB and other chambers. It is the occupational organization of all attorneys. 

Could bar associations set up based on politics and identity fulfill their professional functions securely? Can consultations and audits take place in their plenary sessions?

When foreign delegations from various overseas juridical institutions who are experts on human rights, the right of defense and independence of the judiciary arrive in Turkey, how will they choose which bar association to meet with? 

Can you imagine where such a process will lead? 

High values

Furthermore, in Article 18 of the constitution, the association is called the “Union of Turkish Bar Associations.” 

There are also several references to it regarding the selection of members of various judicial institutions. 

Should we change the constitution? How should we change it? Should we hold yet another referendum?

Didn’t we all once say we wanted peace and stability? What can possibly be the benefit of removing “Turkish” from the name of the umbrella organization of a legal profession? 

I agree that the Turkish Medical Association does not represent the majority of doctors. But did the government ever complain about that when it voiced support for the peace process with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)? 

Norms should be based on the law and the principles of the profession, not political positions. 

It would be a good thing to bring in new regulations to increase the quality of representation at professional chambers. But linking the concepts of “Turkishness” and “Turkey” to specific political preferences will only politicize them. Ultimately such a process would only harm the country.

hdn, Opinion, Taha Akyol