Turkey’s “new” and “advanced” democracy is getting entrenched in exceptional developments. One of those rather interesting happenings came at a meeting between the prime minister and representatives of minority religions. Another one, not so positive, is related to a statement made by the top judge of the country, that members of the Constitutional Court were under “intense pressure.” This “confession” from the top judge came in a newspaper interview and demonstrated vividly the absence of “supremacy of justice” in the sui-generis democratic understanding of the “new” Turkey.
The meeting between Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and representatives of non-Muslim religious minorities reflected the mentality of the ruling political Islamic clan of Turkey. The meeting was not with representatives of the minorities, but rather one with leading members of the religious minorities. For example, the Greek Orthodox Phanar patriarch and his deputy; vicar of the Chaldean Patriarchate in Turkey; the Turkish Syriac Orthodox archbishop; the deputy patriarch of Turkey’s Syriac Catholic Church; the archbishop of the Turkish Armenian Catholic Church; the chief rabbi of the Turkish Jewish community; the Armenian deputy patriarch; and Turkey’s ambassador to the Vatican were guests of the luncheon, but that was all. The Alevite society, or any of the Sunni or Shiite sects, or the ethical minorities like the Kurds, Caucasians, Romans, or any other minorities of the country were not there, nor were there other minorities. Did not all minorities deserve to be accorded equal treatment from the prime minister?
The “new” Turkey apparently could not go very far away from the accustomed old Turkey, where the state was trying to behave as if it was secular, dictating to everyone the Sunni school of religion on the one hand while wisely limiting the freedom of Sunni Islam on the other, probably aware of what terrible things would happen if it was left to its own. The panorama of the present day Middle East, massive unrest, indeed rebellion, by various political Islamic clans during the early period of republican rule must have dictated the need for state control of Sunni Islam. Was it a coincidence that the rule of law on the republican military and the religious affairs directorate were legislated on the same day by Parliament in March 1924?
Considering everyone living in the country as “Muslim” and “others,” and believing that everyone Muslim ought to be “Sunni” while “others” might be comprised of “non-Muslims who are Jews and the Christians of all churches,” is an ill mentality which has outlived all the troubles, changes and challenges this country lived through from the Ottoman era to this day.
It is really something to celebrate if the Turkish state is going to allocate land and help construct the first-ever church (of a reasonable size and architecture) of the republican period? Well done for the Davutoğlu government, but for one second I just cannot help but ask the question: did the Alevite people not deserve a similar Sunni “tolerance”? If somewhere around one-fifth of this country is Alevite, don’t they deserve to see their Cemevis be considered as places of worship like mosques and equally helped by local municipalities and the central government?
The other photograph is even worse. The top judge is complaining of “immense pressure” from the ruling political clan because some sensitive issues were on its agenda, such as an individual application for the annulment of the ten percent electoral threshold because it contradicted the “equality in representation” principle and thus is a breach of rights. Look at the grave situation, the top court coming under immense pressure and the top judge publicly complaining about that pressure in an interview with a journalist.
If the top court and top judges of the country are coming under political pressure to the extent that the outgoing chief of the Constitutional Court is publicly crying out, just think what the situation might be of the other high courts, whose membership structure has changed so many times over the past few years, or the judges and prosecutors touring the country according to the climatic conditions between the governing political clan and the Judges and Prosecutors High Board…
I just don’t want to move on to the third photograph, the one of a health minister – a refugee from Greece himself – saying “the profession” of a woman is to be a mother, “a profession that she cannot replace with anything else.”
Don’t we have a mentality problem, a serious one, in this country?