Department of My Big Fat Conservative Wedding
We can always pleasantly ignore his recent award-winning slips of the tongue, namely, that “there is a 360-degree difference between our Islam and the Islam of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)” or that “wherever there is an oppressor, we will stand by [him].” But Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s portrayal of ISIL as “ungrateful” deserves one simple question: For which favor has ISIL been ungrateful to Turkey?
Amusingly, Mr. Davutoğlu’s last-minute efforts to win a handful more votes on Nov. 1 include a promise to find spouses for those “whose parents fail to marry them off.” Not too hard to visualize an outdoor sign on a serious-looking, grey government building in Ankara: The “Republic of Turkey - Prime Ministry – Department of My Big Fat Conservative Wedding,” or an answering machine that greets callers: “Welcome to the Prime Ministry’s Ayşe’s Getting Married Department. Press one for a husband with an ISIL-style beard…”
Clerk: How would you like your future spouse?
Applicant: Well, he should not be a thief.
Clerk: Are you a terrorist?! I’ll get you arrested for insulting statesmen!
But there is a serious side to the prime minister’s election pledge. Just like his word “ungrateful” for ISIL should hint at something to the average – not smart – observer, his “if-your-parents-fail-to-marry-you” promise should tell something about Mr. Davutoğlu and other Islamists’ worldview. In that worldview, young people do (or should) not meet themselves, start an affair, fall in love with each other and decide to get married. In that worldview, young people can only get married if their parents find them suitable spouses.
Regardless of whether or not the idea that the Turkish government should function as an official wedding agency will earn Mr. Davutoğlu the few more votes he needs to form a single-party government, he will find a mess to rule if/when he wins the mandate. His nation is no longer one united nation but resembles four angry adults who share an apartment and are ready to kill each other.
That’s the House of the Crescent and Star whose deep polarization, most recently, emerged nearly 9,000 kilometers away. According to press reports, at least 12 people, including two Japanese policemen, were injured in a scuffle between Turks and Kurds as hundreds of Turkish citizens gathered at the embassy in Tokyo to vote. Not too bad: It could, at any Turkish embassy, have been a scuffle between secular and pious Turks, between pro-government and anti-government pious Turks, or between secular nationalist Turks and secular liberal Turks.
In Mr. Davutoğlu’s make-believe Turkey, unlucky youths whose parents cannot marry them off could always knock on the doors of a government agency to find a spouse. In the real Turkey, the youth hate “the other” at the magnitude Turkey experienced through the decade that ended with the coup d’état of 1980.
For instance, Mr. Davutoğlu’s “happy” Turkey full of young, conservative men and women do not include the 244 people sentenced by a court on various charges – just because they wanted to peacefully protest the government during the Gezi park demonstrations – including doctors who helped injured protesters who have now been sentenced for “dirtying a mosque.” Or the three young students who were fined for holding up banners during a football game that merely read: “Ankara 10:04” (referring to the time the twin jihadist bombs hit Ankara on Oct. 10); “Peace will win” and “We are not well and we will not be.” Finally, in the real Turkey, to ask for peace is an offense.
In Mr. Davutoğlu’s illusionary Turkey, there is no place for young people who prefer to choose their spouses themselves. There is no place for young people who demand just peace – not Islamist peace. Naturally, Mr. Davutoğlu’s dreamland is less than half of Turkey. Mr. Davutoğlu can win the constitutional mandate to run that less-than-half Turkey in a single-party government, or he could be forced to share power with a coalition partner. But if, like his boss, he insists on consolidating 40 percent of Turkey and its youth while alienating the rest through the police/judicial power of the state, he will only look like a slightly better version of Bashar al-Assad.