The Turkish Republic will prevail
On the 94th anniversary of the proclamation of the Turkish Republic, including the ruling elites, the whole country contested to deliver the most attractive message of the day. Who was sincere, who was not? There was no sincerity contest. Yet, there ought to be a scale.
Could someone who ran over all fundamental principles of the republic and its founding father Mustafa Kemal Atatürk be sincere, if on this important anniversary he pledged loyalty to the republic? If all fundamental principles of the republic, headed by pluralism, supremacy of law, respect to norms, values and institutions of secular governance are all run over, can we still talk about loyalty to the republic? If, with the assumption that political power in office enjoyed support of the nation, can pluralism be sidelined with a majoritarian governance, is there any meaning in a contest of who loves the republic most?
Atatürk aimed at establishing a multi-party democracy in this country. His two attempts in the early years of the republic failed because the country was not yet ready for such a step. Did the post-1950 experience show that this country was mature enough for a multi-party democracy? The republic probably failed in achieving its fundamental target, transforming Turks from being not so important members of the “ummah” (community), into a society composed of prestigious individuals.
If rather than discovering and cherishing the value of being an individual, this nation remains aloof of such values, can we say the republic was successful? If this nation still runs after religious, political or ethnical semi-gods, establishes communities, parties or legal-illegal groupings and surrenders themselves in exchange of becoming worshippers of those semi-gods, can it be possible to say that the Turkish Republic was a successful project?
The problem Turkey faced and why the Turkish Republic could not be a full success should be examined well before lofty statements praising the republic and its founding father are delivered. If we remove the last 15 years for obvious reasons, it could be argued that 80 years of efforts failed to produce a nation of individuals. Religious sheikhs continued poisoning the nation. Though banned, noxious groupings around self-proclaimed religious sheikhs or cunning politicians exploiting religion continued underground activities and when they found fertile ground, mushroomed; devastating achievements of the previous 80 years or so.
Because of the attempted coup on July 15, 2016, allegedly orchestrated by the Islamist Fethullah Gülen brotherhood, everyone has apparently become aware of the norms and values defended by the founding father of the republic. Yet, is it a secret that particularly in the Health Ministry, the cadres emptied by the imprisoned or sacked FETÖ (Fethullahist Terrorist Organization) supporters were all filled by people who have been members of yet another Islamist brotherhood?
Having an inscription on the wall of the parliament that “Sovereignty rests solely and unconditionally with the people” does not mean there is democracy in that country. Getting over 50 percent of the national vote cannot empower a political party or leader to rule the country with a majoritarian understanding, looking down on opponents, or even worse, banishing them to prisons. With over 150 journalists in prison, thousands of professors, teachers, civil servants and soldiers were not only fired but declared as terrorists by emergency law degrees and cannot have any sort of public or private employment.
Today’s Turkey cannot be the one Atatürk and his friends wanted to create.
Opening eyes wide, yelling at people, ridiculing the opposition, frightening the opponents and making it almost impossible to think of any criticism against the president or the government cannot be compatible with the perception of the Turkish Republic. Well, there might be some other forms of republic. The Libyan version failed. Iran’s version is still surviving. The Russian one might perhaps be better described as an effort to make a return to the pre-Soviet era tsarist Russia. Turkish democracy though, has always been a peculiar one with serious deficiencies compared to Western democracies, never ever resembled such totalitarian, collectivist or theocratic regimes. Now unfortunately, Turkey is running fast towards becoming a third-world, failed democracy.
The Turkish Republic must be democratic. It must be pluralist. There ought to be freedom of speech and the iron bars closed on journalists must all be removed. Has anyone noticed? This year, except for the government and some pro-government “media” organizations, no major media organization marked Oct. 21 World Journalists Day. Why? At least the minister in charge of media affairs must ask themselves this question.
Still, have we given up? No… The Turkish Republic will prevail.