Turkey’s test with the West

Turkey’s test with the West

Since the coup attempt of July 15, officials in Ankara have been constantly complaining about the same thing: “The West, the EU, NATO, and the U.S. did not understand us. They are biased against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. They did not even call to wish us a recovery. What sort of an alliance or partnership is this?” Let’s go through a reality check. Just how much does Ankara want the West to be on its side anyway?

We want our European friends to think exactly like us, to be online tweeting exactly like us, to join the crowd as soon as something happens in Istanbul or Ankara to condemn the wrongdoers, and to support the Turkish government or the “national will.” But that is not necessary; it may even be counterproductive. Let’s be honest, even people living outside of Ankara and Istanbul during the coup attempt (take the vacationers in Çesme, Bodrum or Antalya, for example) had a hard time comprehending the exact details of what happened on that day. 

In fact, the European reaction to the coup plot was similar to how the Ankara government reacted after the tragic earthquake of Aug. 17 some 17 years ago. Anyone far away from the heat of the magnitude of destruction had difficulty understanding the scale of suffering. So we should give our European friends a break. Certain things take a little time.

Second, for the past decade one of the favorite sports of everyone in government has been bashing the West. So it should not be surprising when “the West” pretends not to hear at some point. Imagine if your neighbor has been constantly shouting against you, insulting you non-stop, sending unknown people into your house, and demanding that you pay for these people… You too would probably turn a deaf ear when their house is being robbed.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Ankara James Jeffrey told said in a recent interview with daily Hürriyet that the general sentiment in Washington against Turks is negative - not just because of Erdoğan but also because of ordinary Turks’ beliefs against the U.S. He has a point. In Turkey, the Islamists blame everything on the U.S. while the secularists believe they are suffering under the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) because of U.S. support for the AK Party. The Kurds are the only group that does not feel inferior to the Americans and they may be the cure for this illness. But for that, ordinary Turks should learn to trust Kurds and Islamists should learn to trust Kemalists, though it may be too early for that at this point.

Turkey does not need the West’s approval or its pampering to save its democracy after July 15. It has shown to Europe that both secular and religious Turks will be on the streets to defend democracy. For our friends in the West, that may be hard to understand, but it is also our duty to tell our success story. The words of the AK Party’s Istanbul chair, Selim Temurci, are very valuable: “Even people with alcohol bottles in their hands who were picnicking in the park came to defend us against the putschists.” 

Turkey’s democracy has proven once again that it is too good for those who see it as “bon pour l’Orient.” Now we have to prove to ourselves that we can live by that promise every day, even if our European and American friends remain skeptical. Democracy and unity should be improved and perfected every single day because we need it, not anyone else.