BURAK BEKDİL > The Shanghai Seven?

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Once again, Turkey looks “directionless.” As usual, “a bit of everything” ideology leaves the Crescent and Star in the dark.

The bitter truth is that Turkey is too oriental for the European Union, too non-Arab for the Arab League, too non-African for the African Union, too irrelevant for ASEAN and the Union of South American Nations and too western for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was perfectly right when he said that “[the SCO] is bigger than the EU in population. And [with membership in the SCO] we shall have a chance to get together with the countries with which we share common values.” That was a follow-up on his January remark that “the West does not want a powerful Turkey,” and a November speech in Cairo that “all the West wants is to tear the Islamic world to pieces.”

It is no coincidence that a public opinion survey a few years earlier revealed that only a third of Turks believed they shared common values with the Europeans (the most recent poll puts the percentage of pro-EU Turks at 30 percent).

As columnist Robert Ellis often remarks, at a meeting of the Istanbul Forum in October, Mr. Erdoğan’s chief adviser, İbrahim Kalın, spoke of the growing gap between Islamic and Western notions of what constitutes sacred and religious rights, as well as freedom of expression, and concluded that “the European model of secular democracy, politics and pluralism seems to have little traction in the Arab and larger Muslim world [including Turkey].”

There is more than enough evidence to suggest that in Mr. Erdoğan’s ideal Turkey, the key parameters are economic and military might, as well as regional leadership and size – not pluralism, democracy and civil liberties mixed with economic and military might and regional leadership. So, his courtship with the idea of SCO membership is not just rhetoric aimed at grabbing the EU’s attention in terms of accession talks. And of course Mr. Erdoğan’s Turkey shares more common values with SCO member states – China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – than with EU member states.

Freedom House’s Map of Freedom 2013 shows all SCO members, except Kyrgyzstan, in purple, which stands for “not free.” Kyrgyzstan, like Turkey, is yellow, which indicates “partly free.”

It is not a coincidence, either, that Turkey, a dialogue partner in the SCO, shares common values with the two other dialogue partners, Sri Lanka and Belarus. These values are a decades-long civil war (as in the case of Sri Lanka) and an inherent contempt for civil liberties and pluralism (as in the case of Belarus. See “Minsk criteria for Turkey” in this column, March 21, 2012).

So, the Turkish membership in SCO would be a marriage made in heaven. All the same, although Turkey perfectly fulfills membership criteria in terms of democratic culture and freedoms, it may have to wait for another half-century for SCO membership, after having spent half a century in the EU queue, since the last member SCO heavyweights would wish to see is a country that champions Sunni Islamism.

Too bad, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s efforts to mastermind a “Middle Eastern Coal and Steel Union” were derailed after “the man who made tomorrow” failed to foresee that spring could also blossom on the Arab Street.

But it’s not too late. Just like its leaders have decided – only to feel imperial again – to build Turkey’s own “national” missile, fighter jet, tank, helicopter, warship, credit rating agency, hybrid car, tram, space program, cartoon character and, believe it or not, “national Turkish potato,” Turkey can always launch its own pact in which, naturally, half the envious world will queue up to become members: the Turkish Islamic Union!

The idea belongs to Ceylan Özbudak, a keen follower of the controversial (and often amusing) Islamic leader Adnan Oktar: “We believe that [world peace] can only be achieved through a Turkish Islamic Union, where all the countries will be independent in their states, but they will be under one roof, and Turkey will be the spiritual leader of this Turkish Islamic Union.”

Good luck ladies and gentlemen, and sweet dreams…


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Notice on comments

Red Tail

2/8/2013 3:51:48 PM

Dogan. You claim that the journalist has punched Turkey below the belt. But I would argue that you are punching Turkey far more below the belt. You have, by living 50 years abroad, shown the entire world that you do not want to live in Turkey, surronded by Muslims and by Turks, but instead prefer Christian Europeans. That is far more insulting than writing an article critisizng our foreign policy. In fact, I can hardly think of a more serous insult to Turkey than refusing to live with your own.

OZman Cometh

2/8/2013 3:30:42 PM

It's called keeping your options open. It can also be might is right. It can also be money talks and bull dust walks. As Türkiye gets richer and stronger thanks to AKP, the unfriendlies are taking note. This galls BB no end...

american american

2/8/2013 12:46:59 PM

again, no one mentions erdogan's genocide remark about chinese treatment of the uighurs. we see how turkey reacts when anyone wishes to even think about discussing the possibility of a possible armenian genocide. what makes this man think that the sco wants him? dogan, if burak were an israeli opinion writer writing in an israeli paper, his attentions would be focused there. he feels that his government is letting him down. come home and stop earning the pound, then complain.

anton supertramp

2/8/2013 11:35:05 AM

@stefanos, İts long over due for turkey to find new alliances, what have turkey got after 50 years spending in vain? hypocrisy nothingelse, not one european wants to admit that they dont want muslim nation in? what did you expect turkey to do? she will look naturally to other directions where she can be accepted,, cooperation and close economic ties with china and russia will be better for turkey, if europeans think they are better than anyoneelse then keep thinking but please dont bother us :)

Stefanos Kalogirou

2/8/2013 10:35:39 AM

@Dogan why being bitter? Have you seen any false untrue statements in this article? what is below the belt? What is a great chess move by Erdogan to state that he eyes SCO? it shows not only lack of direction as Burak Bekdil puts it leniently but DESPAIR of an incompetent and dangerous "leader". Great Writing as always Mr Bekdil but it is only natural to have reactions like @Dogan's when you take them off their turkish lenses.

Rimon Tree

2/8/2013 10:31:20 AM

Very much to the facts, BB, a country torn up as a result of her history. In addition to all your " a bit too's" she is a bit too AKP now. If Erdogan and consorts will go on fooling around they will lose their last Western supporters. And I am not sure, looking around in the Middle and Far East that it will be such an easy and rewarding game for Turkey. As for the dream of TIU, absolutely none of the Arab countries and certainly not Shia Iran would allow such an aspiration of grandeur by Turks!

Blue Dotterel

2/8/2013 10:30:30 AM

“all the West wants is to tear the Islamic world to pieces.” In fact the US heavily invests in war industries and depends on war for its economy. More than 50% of its GDP is attributed to the military industrial complex. Not surprisingly the US produces more weapons than everyone else combined. A war industry needs conflict and an enemy to justify producing and selling weapons. Islam has been made into a convenient enemy for profit. Muslim societies are not a serious threat to Western capital.

rich bind

2/8/2013 9:09:41 AM

Well said. The SCO, a club for dictatorships and want to be dictators, is a perfect fit for Erdogan. Why bother with EU demands for democracy, freedom of the press, freedom for Kurds etc., when you can join those lovers of freedom like Russia and China. Too bad they are not lovers of Islam either, but hay, you can't get everything.

dogan kemal ileri

2/8/2013 2:19:57 AM

Is it not wonderful to know that gutter journalism is still alive and well and resident in the pages of HDN by a writer who can never criticise Israel and keep punching Turkiye below the belt at all times.

Guney Levent

2/8/2013 1:09:16 AM

For me 'the universal declaration of human rights' stands above anything else. This doesn't mean I'm European and I surely don't feel myself European. I would feel myself more home in a bloc with other Turkic or middle eastern nations.
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