How Turkey’s Victory Day become a polarizing matter?
Political polarization is a contagious disease of today’s world, spreading from one country to another in different forms. The very valuable tenets like compromise, consensus and reconciliation have long been forgotten as a result of the highly polarized political environment. Plus, this malign politics also reflect within the societies and ruins the sense of unity and togetherness.
Turkey is one of these countries suffering from an acute polarization with severe impacts on political life and rhetoric. Two recent examples can be cited to illustrate how divided Turkish politics is.
The first example has been observed after the government has heralded the discovery of a 320 billion cubic meters natural gas reserve in the Black Sea with an economic value of $60 to 80 billion.
In a normal country, that would be welcomed with full joy and enthusiasm by the entire nation with hopes that it will contribute to the prosperity of the people. This feeling was observed to a certain extent. However, there were different reactions to the good news given by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, too.
The dissidents have started to question the validity of the information given by the government on the reserve while undermining the discovery by suggesting that Turkey has no adequate technology to extract natural gas and etc. The governmental camp, on the other hand, started to criticize the opposition parties “for not sufficiently rejoicing over the gas find.”
The second example is proving how polarization is profound. The last week of August marks two important dates for Turkish history: The Battle of Malazgirt of 1071 and the Battle of Dumlupınar of 1922, which the nation celebrates as the Victory Day.
The discussion about these celebrations has sparked last week after the Interior Ministry has banned large-scale gatherings on Aug. 30, the Victory day, as part of COVID-19 measures. The circular issued by the ministry stipulates a short protocol ceremony be held in 81 provinces. The move has angered the opposition parties as they regard it yet as another move by the government in its efforts to shadow the national days in the reminiscent of the foundation of modern Turkey by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
The anger has further escalated when they saw President Erdoğan and his main ally, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli attend the two-day massive celebrations of the Battle of Malazgirt in the eastern province of Muş with the participation of thousands of people. There, Erdoğan and Bahçeli inaugurated a presidential compound particularly built for the annual celebrations of the Malazgirt Battle.
This intense celebration of a battle that occurred 949 years ago and imposing restriction for the Victory Day has drawn the reaction from the Republican People’s Party (CHP). Chair Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu accused Erdoğan of not knowing the real meaning of Turkey’s Independence War that banished the enemies from the Anatolia. Government spokespersons have responded to Kılıçdaroğlu’s accusations by suggesting that the Victory Day will be marked as usual.
Despite the restrictions, the opposition-led municipalities are planning to organize a number of celebrations on the Victory Day by obeying the social distancing rules.
Both Malazgirt and Dumlupınar are representing important turning points in the long Turkish history in the Anatolian peninsula. History is one of the most important unifying aspects of a nation and nobody has a right to break it by cherry-picking important national days. Turkey and its people deserve to celebrate its historical moments in full dignity and unity.