The new Turkey…
Turkey’s coup-surviving president and political leaders with the absence of one – who was not invited – came together with hundreds of thousands of people at Istanbul’s Yenikapı Square and on huge screens in the squares of Turkey’s remaining 80 provinces to demonstrate their unity and togetherness against interventions in democratic governance. The organizers also erected a screen at a location close to the Pennsylvania refuge of Fethullah Gülen, the Islamist scholar and leader of the Gülen brotherhood accused of staging the failed July 15 failed coup. Why? To let the Turkish people realize the power its unity produces and to tell Gülen the entire nation has united against him.
Will the platform at Yenikapı reflect an image of the new country? Or, is the new Turkey better represented by the mass purge of the Gülenists and Gülen sympathizers in all public institutions, the prisons filled with generals, admirals, officers, top civil servants, academics, and of course journalists all suspected or accused of belonging to the “Fethullah Terrörist Gang” or as its abbreviation has become the fashion, “FETÖ?” Probably months and years are required to fully understand what July 15 was, how it evolved and what it produced. For example, was it a failed coup attempt or the trigger for a civilian coup? Time will provide an answer to all such questions.
What’s clear, however, is the plain truth that if the 15 July attempt had been successful, Turkey would have been transformed into a huge prison, and its peculiar and rarely functioning democracy would have been replaced with the Sunni version of an Islamic theocratic dictatorship. There were claims that the country might have moved to a “sovereign democratic order” like that of Russia had the coup been successful.
Thus, the new Turkey of Gülen would be yet another form of “peculiar democracy” according to some, while many believe that Alevis, non-Muslims and others would have faced daunting existential challenges.
Obviously, as the platform of the first-ever “national unity rally” – which drew the president, parliamentary speaker, prime minister and ruling party leader, leaders of the two big opposition parties and of course an army of singers – demonstrated the national thirst for national solidarity and togetherness. The failure of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democracy Party (HDP) stood out. The failure of the HDP to denounce terrorism and call for an end to the use of force and distance itself from the illegal separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) justifies why it was shunned and made an outcast in the political spectrum. Indeed, the HDP could make immense contributions to a resolution to the Kurdish problem if it could liberate itself from the PKK, manage to become a respectable, viable political party willing to contribute to a painful resolution of the age-old “Eastern Question.” However, such expectations were all proved to be nonsense given the fact that the PKK has been the absolute power holder in that region and without consent and support from the PKK, no political representation is possible.
Thus, if Sunday’s “National Unity and Democracy” rally was aimed at contributing to the consolidation of national unity and democratic governance, neither of the two declared goals can be achieved without Kurds engaged in the effort as well. A president and a government that seriously hurt national unity, allowed many southeastern settlements to be turned into ammunition depots just for the sake of an ambiguous and insincere Kurdish opening cannot and should not have the right today to declare they will not talk to the HDP as long as it does not embrace the aim of “Turkey’s national, territorial, linguistic and religious integrity.”
Obviously, the Kurdish issue, as well as what’s going to happen in neighboring Syria and Iran and how the Cyprus issue will evolve, will have a serious effect on the shaping of the course of the new Turkey. But, the real determining factor will be to what extent Turkey will succeed in normalizing. Complaints from some of Turkey’s Western allies that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has capitalized on the coup attempt and moved on to consolidate his dictatorial or super-president ambitions are not, unfortunately, unfounded. While those involved in the coup must be brought to justice and must be made to pay a heavy price for the criminality they were involved in, the administration must not try to take justice into its own hands. What might be the meaning of sending ultimatums and demanding establishments, public and private as well as academic, to prepare lists of Gülenists and submit it to the government? Didn’t the members of this government complain of the profiling practices of the military interim governments?
Contrary to some odd “Kristallnacht” complaints by some European allies, Turkey must unite to make July 15 an opportunity to transform its peculiar democracy into a full-fledged one consistent with European standards.