Turkey: From euphoria to reality

Turkey: From euphoria to reality

Turkey’s coastal towns are empty. The hotels, the restaurants and even the poshest beach clubs are vacant. 
The taxi driver who took us to the airport in Bodrum last weekend told us that he would normally make 60,000 Turkish Liras during a normal season (which lasts approximately four months). This year he has only made a quarter of that. “The taxi station owner takes it. We make a standard living of around 2,000 liras per month,” he said. He was sure that all the additional holidays and bonuses would not help revive the season this year. “It will go on for at least two more years. We are in this trouble for a while,” he added.

That taxi driver is not alone in being pessimistic in the south. Former white-collar workers, bankers, journalists, and doctors who have left big cities to live modestly in coastal towns like Ayvalık, Çeşme and Bodrum are extremely worried about the general trends in Ankara and Istanbul. “When a bomb explodes in Gaziantep and 50 people get killed, you in Istanbul do not care for more than two hours,” my friend Gülfem said. “Here we sink into this nightmare and cannot get out easily.”

The post-coup euphoria about democracy and the so-called “Yenikapı Spirit” of cooperation is turning to bitter realism. Liberal democrats who supported the president and the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government after the Gülenist coup attempt now feel trapped. When the writer Aslı Erdoğan is jailed, when the first thing the Defense Ministry does is convert the names of military hospitals to the names of Ottoman sultans, question marks start to emerge. Forty-five days after an apparent breakthrough, Kemalists, secularists, Kurds and women are starting to feel like they have been used and abused to push the Islamist agenda and more conservative policies.

First, the government is doing nothing to reform the Turkish Armed Forces. Second, the government is doing nothing to heal the wounds of former Gülenist trial victims like those in the Balyoz (Sledgehammer) and Ergenekon cases. Third, the government is doing absolutely nothing to show that it is moving toward a better democracy.

Ankara is deeply fixated on the issue of Fethullah Gülen’s extradition. The longer that process goes on, the more open the government becomes to accidents, mistrials and haphazard management. Appointing allies to the highest courts and filling government spaces with more religious cult members is not the “Yenikapı Spirit” that everyone wished for.

To sincerely fight the sins of the past 15 years, the AK Party must face reality and accept the mistakes it made. It cannot get away with simply saying “God forgive us.” The AK Party cadres and the army of advisors to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan really have to go through a mental detox, and that will be painful. Sadly, the Euphrates Shield Operation in Jarablus and the ongoing fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) won’t do the cleansing.

Alev Alatlı, a leading intellectual who is a big supporter of Erdoğan, gave some hidden warnings to AK Party circles last week in an interview that she gave about Gülenists: “Those putschists have not yet faced us. We are the second wave. We are the ones who have adopted Islam as an identity but have become so competent in playing chess with Westerners that we can beat them. We made this country that lacked oil, gold and gas what it is now. It was not easy and we won’t give it up so quickly.”