Whether they like us or not…

Whether they like us or not…

From behind the scenes of politics to discussion programs on television and chit chats in coffee houses, one of the most heard phrases when talking about Turkish foreign policy is: “They do not like us.”

There is an established perception among the Turkish public that countries that oppose Ankara’s policies do so because they do not like us and do not want to understand us.

Reactions from the outer world toward Turkey’s approaches are generally interpreted with the “They do not like us anyway” argument.

In recent days, we have seen that “They do not like us” perception being overtly reflected in many issues from the developments in the eastern Mediterranean to opening Hagia Sophia for (Muslim) worship.

So, who are these circles that do not like us? If that is true, why they do not like us? And how should one act upon this?

Frankly, the list of those who dislike us is quite long.

The United States comes first. Europeans do not like us too: Especially the French, Germans and, of course, the Greeks… Russians do not like us very much either. So do Arabs.

Research on public perceptions Kadir Has University carries out every year demonstrates how widespread the opinion of “They do not like us” is. As stated in the university’s last report, a major part of the Turkish public does not consider the countries listed above as friendly or reliable, and even see some as a threat.

Of course, the saying “They do not like us” is a generalization. This stereotypical sentence is a perception or a strong impression. Yet it is wrong to conclude that everyone in the countries mentioned above does not like Turkey, hate it, or rather is an enemy to it. The same is true for other countries as well. For instance, the French do not like Germans and vice versa. Europeans are not keen on Americans, and Americans do not like Europeans. Russians do not like Americans and vice versa…

But this “not liking” situation is not at the forefront and is not generalized. More importantly, this perception does not affect the bilateral or multilateral relations of those countries. Countries that do not like each other in Europe, such as France and Germany, are fellow friends and allies.

If the countries on that long list do not indeed “like us,” the reasons behind this needs proper identification. 
In fact, these reasons are very different depending on the countries and specific conditions. It is possible to count many historical, sociological, and psychological reasons, from the difference in religion and culture to political and economic competition. The prejudices and misperceptions that took place over time also have an essential role in this.

While examining this, it is necessary to take the approaches, mistakes and inadequacies on our side, not just the conditions on the other side. It is also crucial to try to create a positive image in a bid to prevent not being liked and lift prejudices.

And this leads us to the question of how to act in these situations.

Expressions such as: “They do not like us, they oppose us. Then we will act like them and put them in their places. We will stand upright” are emotional. The approach that should be preferred is to keep relations as good as possible by saying “Whether they like us or not,” instead of getting upset with the obsession of “They do not like us” and be in a quarrel.

sami kohen,