International coalition succeeded in toppling Kemalists, what’s next?
The advent of Today’s Zaman was certainly good news for the Hürriyet Daily News. Developing a rival is always good for any establishment that enjoyed being the sole player for decades in a given sector.
Indeed, the readership, especially the European and American readers, were quite happy with the content provided by Today’s Zaman. The media group not only endorsed an editorial line that seemed to be unbiased, their views looked to overlap with the sensitivities of the policy makers and opinion leaders in prominent Western centers. The readers even started praising their strong presence in European capitals and Washington.
In the first half of the 2000’s, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) was endorsing important reforms in terms of democracy and essential freedoms. The media of the Gülen group was projecting a very polished image of Turkey.
In the second half of the 2000’s, the assault on what the supporters of the AKP considered the representatives of the military-judiciary tutelage started. For the Gülen media group, this was part of the democratization process of Turkey. This is how they projected it to the opinion leaders in the West.
Frankly, it suited the wishes and the interests of power centers in Europe. In their eyes, the secularist-Kemalist order was anti-democratic, against minority rights, against privatization, too nationalistic and anachronistic.
The questions raised concerning the shaky nature of the accusations against those involved in the legal cases, be it journalists or soldiers, were dismissed as lamentations of the representatives of the old order. “Of course they would object to it; their ‘kingdom’ or ‘neighborhood’ is in jeopardy,” they thought. “No … democratic standards were not at stake at all,” was their view. Or at least they preferred to believe so.
All other signs that hinted at the evolution of the AKP and its leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan toward an authoritarian rule were dismissed.
2010, was a year where some alarm bells started ringing in the West. The “one minute” incident in Davos, where Erdoğan stormed out after a war of words with Israeli then-President Shimon Peres, was followed by the Mavi Marmara incident, the attack by Israeli soldiers on the Gaza-bound humanitarian aid ship resulting in the death of more than 10 Turkish nationals.
Erdoğan was an emotional leader and Israel was not an angel after all, so the AKP continued to maintain its positive reputation despite some damage.
Then came the 2011 general elections, which marked yet another outstanding victory for the AKP. I recall vividly a telephone conversation I had with a dear colleague from the Gülen media group. “How is the mood in your neighborhood,” asked that colleague in implying the secularists. I could sense a tone of vindication in the voice, since the AKP was not particularly friendly to “our” neighborhood.
The AKP’s third electoral victory was a clear sign that the party, the Gülenists and the international coalition had succeeded in toppling the Kemalist order.
Then came the break-up between the Gülenists and the AKP. Both sides currently regret their former alliance.
How about their former ally; the Western power centers?
I don’t think they have any regrets about the old order. Yet, they might be thinking about the loose mine they have in front of them now.