The trajectory for Turkey is not promising

The trajectory for Turkey is not promising

Turkey today has been overpowered by a toxic mix of domestic political infighting and a misguided foreign policy that has bred the kind of terrorist attack that we saw once again in Istanbul over the weekend. The country’s misfortune is that the political elite is unable to come together even in the face of such a tragedy, let alone the ones we have seen in Ankara over these past five months, which left so many dead.

The basic fact, however, is that all of this is happening on the watch of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which the public expects proper governance from, seeing as it is the one at the helm. 

This expectation appears misplaced, though, given that the government and especially its “spiritual leader,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, appear to have only one solution in mind for the country’s problems.

Rather than trying to objectively understand the underlying causes for what we are experiencing, the only solution they have is to resort to timeworn arguments about “foreign powers out to undermine Turkey,” and to try and tighten the vise against their domestic opponents, who they accuse of being “lackeys of foreign powers.”

Far from uniting the country, this is deepening divisions and making the situation even more intractable. Erdoğan and his supporters are clearly bent on imposing their specific vision for Turkey on the country. In doing so, they are increasing their invective against their opponents who they accuse of hankering after an order that has little to do with Turkey’s culture and religion-based mores.

Put another way, they are attacking those who are calling for a liberal and pluralistic secular democracy, where freedom of expression, basic human rights and minority rights are respected. They want “limits” to freedom of expression, and are also out to criminalize anything that they subjectively deem to be support of terrorism. 

Terrorism, on the other hand, is used by them in the broadest sense possible. The hounding of academics who signed a petition for peace in the southeast is only the latest case in point. Their hounding of the opposition media, on the other hand, is well known the world over by now.

As they attack their opponents, however, they also reveal an increasing annoyance over the realization that attaining their ultimate goal of establishing what they refer to as the “New Turkey” is becoming more and more elusive. 

In other words, forcing Turkey into a religious social system based on the Sunni outlook is showing itself to be a far more difficult task than they assumed initially. What they don’t realize, though, is that Turkey is not a country made up of citizens who subscribe to one political, ideological, religious, ethnic or sectarian outlook. 

It is a complex web with major social fault lines, which if not carefully managed, become activated easily. This makes it imperative that Turkey is governed properly, in order that none of the groups that make up the country feel excluded, dispossessed or disenfranchised in any way.

Trying to fit such a country into a restrictive mold based on an exclusive religious outlook is only an invitation to social conflict. It is evident that the longer it takes for those governing Turkey today to understand this, the deeper the social divisions will become.  

If the expectation is to extract some kind of victory from supposed opportunities created by the growing chaos in the country – by using this chaos to introduce draconian measures, for example – this is merely a recipe for disaster.  

Some argue that disasters become necessary sometimes to knock sense into minds that refused to budge from their previous calcified ideological positions. Time is going to tell whether sense prevails in Turkey, thus preventing it from paying such a price. 

As it is today, however, the trajectory is not promising.