CHP to show Turkey not only AKP, says main opposition leader

CHP to show Turkey not only AKP, says main opposition leader

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
CHP to show Turkey not only AKP, says main opposition leader

CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu (L) talks to Hürriyet Daily News Ankara bureau chief Serkan Demirtaş in an exclusice interview in Ankara. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

The main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) constructive overseas visits have worked to show the region that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) does not possess the only voice in Turkey, according to party leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.

“The CHP has taken and will continue to take constructive steps to repair our foreign policy that was brought to a standstill at the hands of the AKP,” he told the Hürriyet Daily News in a Nov. 9 interview ahead of a Socialist International (SI) council meeting in Istanbul.

The CHP has succeeded in improving relations with Egypt and Iraq thanks to visits to the countries after relations between the AKP and the regional actors were strained, he said. “We have also shown that Turkey does not consist merely of the AKP.”

The Socialist International (SI) will gather its council meeting on Nov. 11 and 12 in Istanbul. How would you elaborate on the importance and objectives of this meeting?

It’s exciting and an honor for us to host this council meeting at a time when important changes are occurring in our region and demands for democracy and freedom are rising, including Turkey. The council meeting is important because it will showcase the Gezi resistance, the dynamics of rising freedom and democracy in the Middle East and the global economy. Our objective is to support the rightful demands of the people through concrete initiatives on the basis of our principles and to pave the way for progressive ideas. I think the meeting will lead to promising and guiding results on issues on the international community’s agenda, particularly on Syria. The meeting will also be an opportunity for the CHP to contribute to social democracy. Social democracy is a rising thought and worldview. The Istanbul meeting will lend impetus to its rise.

The SI Council’s meeting coincides with the historical transformation in the Middle East. The coup in Egypt, political problems in Tunisia and Libya and increasing extremism in Syria are leading to conclusions that the Arab Spring has collapsed. How are these developments seen from the SI perspective?

I am of the opinion that the dynamics that caused the Arab Spring are still powerful, as are the peoples’ demands and anticipation for democracy and freedom. However, extreme movements are attempting to defuse the winds of democracy in our region; to shape them in line with their own agenda and, in short, to hijack them. The SI unconditionally defends peoples’ struggles for freedom and democracy. The Istanbul meeting, at the same time, will be an event that will stand against radical trends in our region and that will promote solidarity and the culture of compromise. Political parties and political trends with a socialist and social democrat understanding are the greatest powers that will shape the future of the Arab Spring.

The stance taken by the Turkish government in the face of the Arab Spring since December 2009 has also drawn much attention. Its policy focusing only on the interests of the Muslim Brotherhood has been the focal point of criticisms. How do you evaluate these criticisms?

I find these criticisms shortcoming and insufficient. The AKP [Justice and Development Party] government not only supported the Muslim Brotherhood but also more radical trends in various ways. Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan had statements on this issue just two days ago. CNN International reported how easily al-Qaeda militants were crossing into Syria through Turkey. Militants of al-Qaeda affiliated groups declared the prime minister as their father last week. The AKP government has softened the blow of the rising winds of democracy in the region by hiding behind its justification of standing against authoritarian regimes in the Middle East. Even worse, the AKP dragged Turkey into a swamp where terrorist organizations are operating, organizing attacks and targeting the lives and property of our citizens. In support of all sorts of organizations simply because they are fighting against the Syrian regime, the AKP has engaged with terrorist groups. This is a negative situation in terms of stability and comfort for our region and for Turkey. Unfortunately, repairing it will be difficult and will take time.

How do you evaluate the Turkish government’s efforts to become a regional leader of the Middle East?

Turkey’s regional influence has been fully reduced. We have most recently observed this in the release of the Turkish Airlines pilots who were kidnapped in Lebanon. The [AKP’s] adventurist policy resulted in Turkey losing its efficiency in the Middle East. Political trends in Arab countries in alliance with the AKP are in retreat. Turkey has been isolated and the AKP’s suspicious relations with terrorist groups operating in Syria and Iraq have been posing fresh dangers for the security of our country and citizens. The [May 11] attack in Reyhanlı that claimed the lives of scores of our citizens is a direct result of the AKP’s irresponsible policy. Regional countries are not in the search for a leading or a game-setting country. Each country is capable of making its own way in line with its characteristics, history, structure and expectations. No one has the right to recommend things to another. We welcome solidarity, dialogue and mutual assistance. But there is no place and no need for imposing and imperious approaches.

The democratic-secular structure of Turkey has been seen as its most important characteristic in its promotion as the model country for Muslim countries. There are, however, criticisms that this very model of Turkey is at risk of being eroded because of some governmental policies and approaches. How do you assess this criticism?

I agree with this criticism. The AKP government is engaged in a systematic and conscious attack against the republic’s fundamental principles and values. The prime minister’s authoritarian rule based on the simple majoritarian understanding and his anti-secularist demeanor is polarizing and straining society. They are trying to eradicate the unifying notion of the people/nation and replace it with other notions. Almost every day, women are exposed to the prime minister’s verbal attacks and his attitudes degrading them as second-class citizens. But when I look at our youth, I don’t see any reason to be hopeless. Turkey will regain its special position in its region and in the world. But there is only one way for this: The CHP should be in power as soon as possible.

The role of women in society is one of the most important characteristics of a democratic-secular order. There are, however, unending debates over women due to the government’s policies. What is the CHP’s take on this discussion?

We are a political party that believes in the equality of men and women and is implementing it. The right to vote was given to Turkish women long before many European countries. We have increased the quota for women in the party to 33 percent. The government’s approach on women, however, can be read in indexes and statistics. Violence against women rose 1,400 percent in the last 10 years. Women have been pushed out of working life. They are being forced to stay at home by giving birth to more children. The AKP is seeking fresh ways to keep our girls away from university education. The position the prime minister has taken on the issue of the headscarf has demonstrated to the entire world that he is exploiting women and the bodies of women for his political purposes. The CHP will continue to be an unyielding and firm advocate of our women in their struggle against the AKP’s backward policies.

The CHP has underlined that it has a wide foreign policy vision with its recent visits to countries in which Turkey’s ties have been ruined recently. Can you detail the CHP’s foreign policy agenda and give information on planned visits?

The CHP has taken and will continue to take constructive steps to repair our foreign policy that was brought to a standstill at the hands of the AKP. We will go to the United States at the end of November and we are planning some other visits as well. Our visits to Iraq and Egypt were beneficial for two reasons. First, our damaged relations with these two countries were improved somewhat, and it has been understood that the CHP undertakes Turkish foreign policy in a more different and wiser manner. We have also shown that Turkey does not consist merely of the AKP. Second, the AKP has begun to show signs of changes in its policies toward Iraq and Egypt. It resent its ambassador to Egypt and extended an invitation to the prime minister of Iraq. We are for Turkey. Our guide is the interests of our people and our country. The AKP has put Turkey at a standstill in its foreign relations, isolated the country and left it [exposed to] fresh threats. Although it is in the opposition, the CHP is throwing its weight behind foreign policy issues that affect our national interests and will continue to do so.