Türkiye’s democracy is not as old as many European countries; if you list democracies in the order of age, Türkiye is on the 20th percentile together with several post-World War II regimes. But when you order the countries by the date of the acquisition of sovereignty, it is 138th among 192 nations. On that list, some nations are quick to take advantage of an opportunity. France, for instance, declares its date of acquisition of sovereignty as Jan. 1, 486, making itself the oldest country. Hungary dates the start of its sovereignty in 1001, making it the second oldest country in the world.
If we may be allowed to do the same: The oldest written artifacts are the Orkhon inscriptions, two memorial installations erected by the Göktürks written in the Old Turkic alphabet in 732 and 735, in honor of the Turkish prince Kül and his brother the emperor Bilge in Mongolia, Siberia; Danish philologist Vilhelm Thomsen assumes that the Chinese sources refer to Göktürk as a country that existed for the last 200 years at the time of the inscriptions. Then, the Turks have had a country that was as old as the French people. The only problem, our “country” had moved from Siberia, migrating and settling here and there, to Anatolia. At one point, our forefathers kept traveling all the way to Vienna, legating there the buttery, flaky “Viennoiserie” pastry, named Croissant after the three-crescent Turkish flag.
The Ottomans ruled Eastern Europe and the Middle East for more than 600 years; however, they could not keep up with the times. In the 16th century, the empire consisted of 32 provinces and several vassal states, some of which were later absorbed into the Ottoman Empire, while others were granted various types of autonomy over the centuries. If we remember that 43 present-day countries in Europe, Asia and Africa were founded on those lands, then we, the people of present-day Türkiye, may take pride in the legacy we were left with.
The past is gone
Anyhow! The past is gone but it is never dead, and as William Faulkner says, “It’s not even past.” We would never know who the joker was who named the new country after the bird, but with its correct spelling, Türkiye was created 99 years ago as France and Britain were seeking to create new countries on Ottoman lands. Europeans and Woodrow Wilson, president of the young United States in America, devised plans to dismember the Ottoman Empire, leaving Turks a homeland as big as Pennsylvania. But the Turks had different plans. First, they beat off the Greek occupation of Western Anatolia and later repulsed the Italian, British and French occupation of south and southeastern Anatolia. War-weary commanders and diplomats of the new country were seeking immediate peace in their war-torn lands. Playing the superpowers of the day against each other or making concessions when faced with their power plays – for instance, acquiescing to the European insistence on the Turks to give up the sovereignty of the Aegean islands to Greeks – declared their new country and the continuation of the Ottoman State in 1920.
The age-old infights of the empire could endanger the survival of the new country; the solution they came up with was to promote it to a republic in 1923 and be done with the “Ancien Régime.” Some 30 years later, it was yet promoted again into a multiparty democracy; but until the new millennium, it remained a tutelary regime under the guardianship of military-civilian intellectuals and bureaucrats as well as their partners in private commerce and industry. What was created was a regime based on a collectivist political ideology supported by groups such as agricultural, labor, military, business, scientific and guild associations on the basis of their common interests. Professor Taha Parla, bravely, named it “corporatism,” an unflourished form of fascism. Has it worked as expected? Yes. Generally speaking! When the civilian politicians crossed the line and overreached into the recognized domains of the military-civilian intellectuals and bureaucrats, then a military coup would, in the term a 1980 military coup leader used, “adjust the regime finely.” These adjustments ended up in hanging a prime minister and his two ministers, jailing 350 members of Parliament for more than five years (the 1960 coup); 48 young activists were hanged and 170 others killed in military busts, 3,000 people jailed for almost a decade, all political parties closed and all politicians banned from public service (1980). These interventions came in different forms and shapes; in some, military officers took over the government ministries and other positions. In others, the military appointed their trusty civilians into such positions. Some military interventions started with army troops occupying cities; some were put in motion with military memorandums published in the media and civilian politicians obeying their demands.
Finally, the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), winning six general elections and ruling the country for the last 20 years, decontaminated the system from tutelary guardianship of the military and their various form of custodianship through the judiciary and bureaucracy. Or we thought so!
Turkish democracy has been flourishing perfectly, new political parties representing those segments of people that have never been politically represented, young leaders springing up in all walks of life, created a totally modern society. The economy, growing at record speeds, provided new employment opportunities for the graduates of new vocational schools and universities. Kurdish people’s linguistic and ethnic rights had finally been recognized. They could name their children with Kurdish names, they could freely teach and publicly speak Kurdish in private and public spheres that the democratic republic had denied them for decades.
Biden, the Democrat!
Then, this rosy picture was darkened overnight: On Jan. 17, 2020, then-Democratic candidate Joe Biden said in an interview with the New York Times editorial board that, if elected, he would help overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, “support(ing) those elements of the Turkish leadership that still exist and get more from them and embolden them to be able to take on and defeat Erdogan.” Why? Because Mr. Biden thought the U.S. “just sit there and yielded. And the last thing I would’ve done is yielded to him with regard to the Kurds. The absolute last thing.”
After that point on, strange things started happening in Turkey, unthinkable things in a democratic system, such as Islamists, Turkish-supremacists, leftists, rightists and pro-Kurdish politicians getting together and forming an alliance against Erdoğan’s political party. That the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the political extension of the PKK terrorist group, supported that multiparty alliance at the polls without being part of it on paper helps us decipher this strange political phenomenon happening in the country for the last two years.
The whole scenario is about reopening the chapter of the 1915 Paris Peace Conference that was left unfulfilled: The creation of an independent and sovereign Kurdistan. It was left undone at the time of President Wilson because there was no Kurdish leadership that the superpowers of the day could trust. The U.S. was not one of the superpowers, yet. The British had discovered oil in the region, and it had no intention to risk it with new political formations other than their trusty allies tamed by Mark Sykes, Gertrude Bell and T. E. Lawrence.
But now the time has changed! The good old U.S.A. is now the sole superpower. It has been implementing bits and pieces of the Wilsonian grand design since the occupation of Iraq and U.S. intervention in Syria. All you needed was to prepare the ground in Türkiye.
‘Century of Türkiye’
But as they did in 1919, Turks (at least a great portion of them – we’ll see in the June 2023 elections how large a portion it is) do have a different idea about that grand design. This time they call it the “Century of Türkiye.”
Erdoğan last Friday announced his party’s new vision for the new century of the republic. That document offers a revolution that will enhance liberal democracy, political development, societal peace and economic welfare at every corner of the country. He is asking his fellow citizens to make a wow to implement that blueprint to define a “greater and stronger” Türkiye which will have an impact on the world.
Unlike Russian President Vladimir Putin, who, a day before Erdoğan made his speech, warned the world that “We are at a historical frontier,” a bloody and dirty frontier of a power game and Biden who agrees with Putin that the world is on the “brink of most dangerous times since World War II,” Erdoğan’s roadmap uses “inclusive and embracing” language to urge various social groups to launch new initiatives and shape Türkiye’s next century, focuses on “hope” and “working together.”
In short, Erdoğan’s call is a remedy for what Biden has broken in the Turkish political system. The opposition parties, the Sixes as they call themselves, could (actually should) now notice that it is politically risky to continue their cynical maneuver to dodge the responsibility to produce political recipes for their rule. They are hoping to squeeze every bit of benefit from their lack of transparency about the talks they are having among themselves and with the political extension of the PKK terrorists; but now, they are faced with the most sincere and open call from the political party that has been running the show for the last two decades.
They should capture the day and turn their back to Biden’s grand designs.
Source: Daily Sabah