The new generations, one nation under God
Education Minister İsmet Yılmaz stated in a TV interview last week that “they want to raise a new generations who will go out onto the streets with flags, as in the case of the July 15 coup attempt.” It means that we will live under the permanent threat of a coup for many years, meaning that in 20 years’ time, we will need people to stop expected atrocities by rushing onto the street with flags. It means that we will live for decades with vigilance against “internal enemies.”
It never occurs to the minister to consider raising new generations that will build a peaceful democratic system which will not need any sort of street marches with flags in hand. Besides, one wonders who “they” are who will shape the new generations. Since the current minister can only talk in the name of his party, does it mean raising generations who will protect the party line by marching in the streets with flags and against any demonstration against the party’s politics? Unfortunately, my thrilled mind forces me to ask these disturbing questions.
Or are we heading toward a non-partisan state of politics under one leader’s rule in the name of “one country,” “one nation,” “one flag” and “one state” – the famous quartet (“rabia”) that the president repeats in all his public meetings? Indeed, the Turkish-type presidential system implies such “post-political governance” which is also known as totalitarianism. Most recently, the prime minister stated that “the governing party will not live forever, but 10 more years at most,” hinting at the prospect of post-party politics. No wonder the governing party’s supporters do not hold party flags any more but Turkish flags on all occasions, while the governing party’s politicians do not talk in the name of their party anymore, but in the name of the nation and the national interest.
Another piece of alarming news is that Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) will form youth branches in mosques “in order to prevent the youth from joining circles which abuse religion” as in the case of the Gülenists. I remember the 1990s when Islamists objected to state-controlled religion and the existence of the Diyanet. At the time, Islamists argued against social and political engineering and defending the free formation of religious communities without the interference of the state in the name of the “democratic rights” of pious people. Now, the Diyanet is in the hands of the Islamist government and this time, they want to monopolize and control even mosque communities. Under the Turkish-type presidency, the control will obviously pass to the president and will be in the name of “one religion” (or rather “one understanding of religion”) alongside the aforementioned quartet.
The future Turkey seems set to be “secured” by new generations who will be educated to march in the streets with flags, besides the members of the new generation who will also be expected to be the members of the youth organizations of mosques. What if a member of the new generation refuses to march with flags, but asks for a peaceful, consensual society? Will he/she be considered an enemy of the nation? What if a young man does not want to be a member of the mosque branch? Will he be a social outcast with no bright career prospects in the New Turkey? Finally, why organize youth in martial and religious ways? Are we – and will we always be – at war? And if so, with whom and what for? In the name of the unified “one Turkish/Sunni/Muslim nation,” I suppose. Then what will happen to others, to non-Turks, non-Muslims, non-Sunnis, non-mosque-going secularists, independent-minded people, peacenicks and those who define the nation and the national interest along the lines of a pluralist parliamentarian democracy? Is it going to be war against them? I hope not. In such wars, all are destined for defeat.