A new Turkey, a new Europe and the new Middle East

“It is not fair to say that Erdoğan wants to impose Shariah law; he wants to establish his way of understanding nation”

By Quique Badia Masoni

Before the situation of the last defensive point of the Kurdish autonomous region became so critical, Turkey, and the winner of the last elections, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, were advancing in the peace negotiations with the PKK, the Kurdistan Workers Party. This was one of the most important electoral promises of the conservative leader of the AKP, the Justice and Development Party.

Thousands of dead people

“So you can make yourself an approximate idea of the magnitude of this process, how many people would you say perished in the Basque or the Corsican conflicts? 800? 900? In the conflict between the Kurdish and the Turkish, since the eighties,40,000 people have been killed“, stated Elçin Aktoprak.

The professor had explained Erdoğan’s strategy, in a conference held a day before this interview: “The president of the Turkish republic calls for brotherhood between Muslims in order to build links from which he wants to rethink the nation“.

Kemalism, the political perspective that takes its name from the founder of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal, also known as Atatürk —father of the Turkish—, is based upon the idea that all the people who live in Turkey are Turks.

One must remember that the Republic was founded as a single party regime with a heavy military presence, which has links to the Kemalist establishment and tried to interfere in the political sphere in 1960, 1971, 1980 and 2007.

“The Kemalists do not realize that they are a minority: they see Islam as a threat and the Kurds as their enemies”, she continued.

Even so, Elçin Aktoprak sees a change on the Kemalist’s attitude: “Before, people who supported their ideas in public demonstrations shouted ‘army, do your job‘. Now they claim ‘we are the soldiers of Mustafa Kemal‘ for which reason they themselves became actors in the political game”, stated the professor from Ankara University.

She therefore considers that this change in person to ‘we’, proves that they accept their role as an agent within the Turkish political spectrum. But, are these reticences of the political sensibility against the AKP founded?

“Religious nationalism”

“It is not fair to say Erdoğan wants to impose Sharia law; he wants to establish his way of understanding nation”, answered the Turkish academic: “I am against the education that Kemalism tried to impose, but I also reject the AKP’s alternative”.

According to Aktoprak, the number of Islamic schools has shot up in neighborhoods as emblematic as Kadıköy, considered to be one of Istanbul’s most modern zones. “The AKP has created their own state by taking out the elements they consider dangerous, but now they want to create their nation”.

This is how the academic summed up of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s way of doing politics. In doing so, she used the term “religious nationalism“. “They want the youngest to accept their idea of conservative nationalism”, she declared, and it is according to this premise that the Turkish state plans to solve the conflict with Kurdistan, said Aktoprak. An idea of Muslim brotherhood that only includes the Sunni Muslims and so, excludes the Alavi minority or the Anatolian Shia, professed by 20% of the Turkish people. “It is very hard to find an open restaurant in Ankara during Ramadan. It was very different five years ago”, the professor said.

Alternative ways to achieve resolution

We can find a significant change in recent years in the BDP’s bet, the now gone-for-good Kurdish Party, which created a left-wing party with the LGTB movement. This is called HDP: the Democratic Popular Party.

Aktoprak thinks if there is some place where the HDP and the CHP, the Republican People’s Party, can meet, it is in their secularity, but the CHP would have to agree to solve the Kurdish issue in Turkey. Even so, in the last Presidential elections, the CHP, a social-democratic and Kemalist party, held an alliance with the MHP, the far-right party of Turkey.

This secularity that Aktoprak refers to ought to recognize the minorities that comprise this country. Only by doing so, it will be possibleto establish a model for mutual toleranceand find a way to live together. Above all, it will be necessary to solve the problems between the Kurdish and the Turkish, and Kobanê, which is under siege.

The repression of critical demonstrations and the Turkish non-belligerent position toward the Jihadist offensive has taken dozens of lives. In spite of everything, it seems clear that the CHP does not see the solving of the conflict as a main priority, while, as strange as it might seem, the best chances are actually with the AKP. But what price will the country have to pay?

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