How has an issue for the nation become a ‘national issue’?

How has an issue for the nation become a ‘national issue’?

In his parliamentary group meeting speech the other day, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, “It was not the [Justice and Development Party] AKP’s plane that was targeted, but the plane of my dear nation.” Then he said that “those who do not adopt a clear stance against such an incident will be embarrassed in the face of history.”

He is right in this context. The downed plane and the pilots belong to the Turkish army. This is what makes the incident an issue for the nation. The situation does indeed require the adoption of a clear stance; however, the nation should be able to discuss its own issues in a free environment. This is the minimum requirement of democracy.

My impression is that the majority of the nation agrees that Syria, which downed that plane and martyred the two pilots, has assumed a hostile and unjust attitude toward Turkey. I also agree with the majority of the nation. Well, then, shouldn’t the nation ask this question: What has happened that all of a sudden the Syrian regime, which had not had a problem with Turkish planes violating its air space until quite recently, has become so hostile as to shoot one of them down last Friday?

Did the foreign policy the ruling AKP has adopted against Syria play a part in provoking the hostility that resulted in the downing of the plane? Have those who create AKP foreign policy just gone too far with their business of toppling the Damascus regime?

When Syria’s taking down the Turkish plane is analyzed not as an isolated incident but from a wider angle, within the context of AKP foreign policy, we do have an “issue.” Our issue is the AKP foreign policy. Our esteemed prime minister orders us to handle this and similar negative events with the sensitivity of a “national issue.” He also orders us to interlock with each other as a nation under his government with unity and solidarity.

A Turkish plane has been downed, and this country will get even with whoever did it. Turkey should call this aggression to account through international law. But this government has no right to ask anyone to tag along with an extremely sinister Syrian politics that has obviously ramped up a level. The AKP’s Syrian politics is not a “national issue,” but it has become an issue for the nation, because we have passed the point of no return in the Syrian issue. Permanent damage has been inflicted.

The bloodthirsty, unlawful, cruel regime in Syria will leave sooner or later. It is already dissolving, melting and weakening with each passing day. Together with the downfall, a fearful slaughter, massacre and afterwards an actual separation are expected. Even if an international invasion force arrives, this ending cannot be prevented.

The AKP government, which finds it ingenious to view the region with 900-year old glasses, meanwhile, has locked Turkey into the regional geography in a position on the side of Sunnis and against Shiites.

And in the aftermath of the Baath regime, the AKP’s Turkey will not be satisfied with any other outcome but one in which the Sunni Muslim Brothers, which it supports, come to rule all of Syria, which is also home to Nusayris, Kurds, Druzes and Christians. This outcome will never happen. However much the fall of the Damascus regime is predestined, this is also just as certain. A Kurdish region exists, which the AKP government will perceive as a threat for domestic reasons. The AKP’s foreign policy is an issue for us for these reasons as well.

The AKP’s domestic and foreign policies are intertwined. One is the executive of the other; there is a constant political power transfer between them. The foreign policy, at the same time, is a tool that is used for the construction of the Islamic conservative identity the AKP has tailored for Turkey. While a segment of the nation does not adopt this identity, and, nevertheless, this identity is being imposed on them by various means, no one has the right to say: “My foreign policy is your national issue; you have to unite under it and act together.”

Because foreign policy and domestic policy are intertwined, in order to “unite” the people under a foreign policy it is first necessary not to be polarizing, exclusive and discriminatory on the axes of identity, culture and belonging in domestic politics. Unfortunately, this government is doing all three in abundance domestically. For a regime to impose its foreign policy as a “national issue” on its people, with which it is not totally at peace, is impossible. Neither is it possible to become a nation in this day and age, without being democratic, pluralist, egalitarian and participatory.

Kadri Gürsel is a columnist for daily Milliyet, in which this abridged article was published on June 28. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.