‘Being from Turkey’ or ‘Turkeyish’

‘Being from Turkey’ or ‘Turkeyish’

In the interests of solving the Kurdish issue, such concepts as “being from Turkey” or “Turkeyish” (Türkiyelilik) of “the nation of Turkey” have been suggested as a way to create a joint “upper identity.”

One must be extremely naïve to assume that this will be a remedy for Kurdish nationalism for two reasons:

- First: The concept of “Ottoman,” which does not have any ethnic color and, moreover, which had been established and adopted for six centuries, was not enough to keep Christian nations on board, let alone Muslim Albanians after nationalist movements emerged. The concept of “Turkeyish” is artificial, one that has been fabricated on paper; it cannot have any adhesive effect.

- Second: The cause of Kurdish nationalism is related to Kurdish identity. There are many different trends such as the push for a separate state, a federation, autonomy or cultural rights, but the motivation behind all is Kurdishness. Artificial concepts such as Turkeyish or the nation of Turkey would not change the demands of Kurdish nationalism. How much has the concept of “being Iraqi” changed anything?

Ottoman identity

When nationalism emerged in the Balkans, Albanians who adopted Ottomanism fought heroically in Ioannina and especially in Shkodra. Nevertheless, those who adopted Albanian nationalism, during the Ottomans’ most troubled moment – that fatal Balkan War – declared a separate state; they took the weapons of the Ottoman army and left.

One of the reasons for the defeat in Ioannina is this. For this reason, Ioannina was taken by Greece in 1913.
I am not going into detail here; there are many details in my new book “Farewell to Rumelia” (Rumeli’ye Elveda) on Balkan nationalisms and Ottomanism.

In Ziya Gökalp’s book, “Turkism, Islamism and Modernism,” he explained in 1901 how Albanian nationalism emerged, noting that the Turks were unable to prevent this even though they didn’t even call themselves Turks.

Canada, Belgium, Iraq

I’m not talking about France or Germany. Canada and Belgium are geographical names; however, there is a strong separatist nationalist movement in Canada’s French-speaking province of Quebec. In Belgium, Flemish and Walloon nationalisms are heading toward separatism. The same goes for Iraq.

The Ottoman title does not have historic depth, and concepts such as “Canadianism,” “Belgianism” and “Iraqiism” have not worked as an adherent to head off ethnic nationalist movements.

It is wrong to assume that Kurdish nationalists would abandon their claims if we were to accept the totally artificial “Turkeyish” term to replace “Turk” in the Constitution.

Definition of the citizen

It is the irrefutable and natural result of a thousand years of history in this land that the name of the nation is the Turkish nation and that the name of the flag is the Turkish flag. I do not even want to think about the serious identity crises and social crises likely to be caused by subtracting “Turkish” from the name of the nation and the flag and just making it another “one of the ethnic groups.”

It would be a disastrous mistake to reject the historical base of a thousand years; it would also be equally wrong to force the notion that “You are a Turk” to our citizens who feel different in their cultural identities. Experience has shown that this attitude has fueled contra-nationalism sentiment.

While the new Constitution is being written, one extreme is excluding the “Turkish nation” concept totally with the discourse of drafting a “charter without an ethnic identity,” while the other extreme is insisting that “Every citizen is Turkish.” Both would be very wrong for Turkey and for the future of everybody in Turkey.

Taha Akyol is a columnist for daily Hürriyet in which this piece was published on Feb 27. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.