A dreadful wakeup call for Turkey

A dreadful wakeup call for Turkey

The attack in Suruç is a dreadful wakeup call for Turkey. It’s a shame that this call comes at the expense of so many lives, most of them young people - 24 of which were university students. Looking at the picture of these idealistic young girls and boys, who only wanted to take aid and friendship to Kobane and comparing them to the pictures of rabid militants from radical Islamic groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), one has to be totally blind not to see who provides hope and promise for a modern Turkey that is respected internationally.

It boggles the mind therefore to think that the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government could have in anyway, directly or indirectly, given passage to or turned a blind eye to the activities of groups like ISIL or al-Nusra in the hope that they would expedite the downfall of Bashar al-Assad and his regime in Syria. This is not the sort of thing responsible governments do.

The U.S., Pakistan and Saudi Arabia aided the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan in the 1970s and 1980s, in a bid to undermine the Soviet Union, and succeeded to an extent, but just look at what they ultimately spawned for themselves. There are tomes that have been written about this. The Taliban, al-Qaeda, and 9/11 are all the products of that era. Daily Cumhuriyet’s headline commentary on the Suruç attack on July 21 carried a very apt title when it quoted a Turkish saying: “Feed the crow so it can turn around and poke your eye out.” 

It is equally mind boggling that the AKP, with help from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, should have provided grist to the mill, which claims that the Syrian Kurds are somehow more dangerous for Turkey than ISIL. The time has come for the AKP to not only act more decisively together with Turkey’s allies against real and immediate threats to the country, but also to stop politicking in thinly veiled bid to promote its Islamist ideological worldview.

Religion has to be sent back to the private domain where it belongs. In other words, it is time for Turkey to return to its secular mode of governance for the sake of the country as a whole, rather than trying to promote an agenda which less than half the population supports. Erdoğan himself told the Egyptian satellite channel Dream TV in 2010 that secularism is not irreligion. 

“Secularism is definitely not atheism. I recommend a secular constitution for Egypt,” he said, after the country’s dictator Hosni Mubarak was toppled.  “I, as Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, am a Muslim and not secular. But I am the prime minister of a secular country. In a secular country, people have the freedom to be religious or not,” he said (For the original Turkish story: http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/planet/18735423.asp).

Wise words but he did not stand behind them. He went on to say that he wanted to see a religious youth emerge in Turkey. Well, it is clear that a portion of the Islamic youth he desires to see in this country is not just religious but also deeply vengeful, carrying no respect for human life. 

Turkey was always a predominantly conservative and religious country – not unlike the U.S. - even when it adopted a secular form of government. This is why such remarks from Erdoğan always made people think that he was after more than he was claiming.  But using politics to impose religious values on society as a whole has not brought any advantages to Turkey, which is a heterogeneous country when it comes to creeds. 

The June 7 elections have given the AKP a chance to change tack and work for the better of the country as a whole. A grand coalition with the Republican People’s Party (CHP) is a historic opportunity in this respect that should not be wasted for the sake of promoting the religious worldview. Suruç should act as a wakeup call in this respect. It remains to be seen if the AKP will use this opportunity or squander it.