The Iranization of Turkey

The Iranization of Turkey

“Will Turkey become like Iran?” has been the most asked question by paranoid seculars and liberals for a long time.  Seculars and Kemalists have been asking this question relentlessly. 

Both Necmettin Erbakan’s Welfare Party and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) had been criticized harshly by seculars for years, blaming them for turning Turkey into an Iran. For many mainstream seculars, Iran is reputed with its compulsory hijab. Turks have had a facile perception on Iran in that sense. Hijab is the symbol of the Iranian regime. It is forced on women, whether they are believers or not, whether they choose to cover themselves or not. However, the regime is far beyond just an Islamic outfit as you can imagine.

The Iranian regime is built on distrust toward the West; even more, the regime is built on ideas that harshly reject Western values. Ideas built on alternatives to globalized Western values, derived from Persian nativism, is the core ground of the Iranian system.  Unending mourning, deep anger and strong hatred toward anything that is not in line with the Iranian regime are the pillars of the system.

In 2009, when Turkey was trying to mediate the Iranian nuclear program between the West and Iran, questions on whether Turkey was shifting its axis were widely discussed. Modern Turkey had been a devotee to Western civilization, as a NATO member, and maintained a loyalty of belonging to Europe rather than the Middle East.

Well, Turkey was not changing axis back then, but apparently, the Turkish system was turning into something else. 

First of all, there is only one decision maker in Turkish politics, and that is, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. There is a parliament, which is almost dysfunctional. Mr. Erdoğan orders decrees he deems necessary and the cabinet later prepares them. Even the religious, and of course the political leader of Iran, Ali Khamanei, is not donated such power, though more or less former leader Khomeini had such powers.

Every revolution constructs its own history and language. To understand the Iranian regime, it is crucial to observe the streets and squares of Tehran.

Streets and avenues are mostly named after martyrs in Iran, either the martyrs of the 1979 Revolution or the martyrs of the Iran-Iraq War. Buildings are draped with paintings depicting war and martyrdom. The capital city, Tehran, is filled with slogans glorifying martyrdom. Similar to what Istanbul has become after the July 15 coup attempt. First, the name of the Bosphorus Bridge was changed to 15 July Martyrs Bridge and the trend then followed. Now parks, hills and streets are named after martyrs of terror attacks and the coup attempt.  The new system in Turkey is being constructed on new memories and new pillars, and they are reminded to citizens living in every corner of Turkey. 

The Iranian Revolution was led by a coalition of Islamists and seculars, but it had been the nearly-decade-long Iran-Iraq war that helped Islamists grab power and legitimize all brutal policies of the regime. In the name of protecting the motherland, communists were shot in prisons, and “voluntary crowds” terrorized people on the streets. In the first years of the revolution, it was not the police or soldiers that forced women to wear the hijab, nor were they the ones who checked whether someone had drunk alcohol or not, it was the “enthusiasts,” those who were devoted to guarding the newly rising Iranian regime. They were not only Islamist, but also severely nationalist.

Of course, no country is the same as the other, each nation is living its own destiny, however, Turkey and Iran has endured many commonalities within a century. Sometimes the two countries had been lucky enough to learn from each other’s mistakes, but sometimes they did not.