From the Ovi magazine
Perhaps all these, often difficult to understand, actions of the Turkish establishment and their army will be proved constructive for Turkey’s future one day. Turkey today, whether they want to admit it or not, is somehow the continuation of the Ottoman Empire and this is natural. One of the strong points of this period was the complicated but capable bureaucracy that gradually became a ruling factor for the empire. Very cleverly, Kemal, the founder of Turkey as we know her today, kept this establishment and made it part of the new Turkish democracy.
Everything is semantics of course, but the truth is that Kemal created a state example for the Middle East and the Arab countries and perhaps he looks like a dictator from our side. However, he was a huge step from the Sultan to a President and all that during the times the Ottoman Empire was losing, not only the occupied lands, but also any power and influence on the international scene shrinking to a small country between west and east often balancing between powers and interests.
As I said, everything is semantics and the idea of democracy at the end of the nineteenth century has very little to do with the very same concept at the beginning of the twenty-first century – it was much more a country at the crossroads between Europe and the Arab world, in a surrounding where religion can hold back progress, unreachable places with parts still living in different centuries, some even in the dark ages. Kemal created a circular state with European behavior and orientation understanding that Turkey could not be estranged from her past and traditions, which often meant that he had to use force and naturally nationalism became one of his weapons to keep the country united.
And that was fine for the beginning of the twentieth century but it cannot work at the beginning of the twenty-first century, especially with things changing so fast in the area and the geopolitical interests of the powers shifting from one place to the other or changing; Turkey is one of the countries that paid for these changes. Having borders with the old mighty communist Russia for a great part of the twentieth century became one of the defense points for the Americans and the Americans wanted the state to be governed not by an anti-communist government, but, according to the ’50s dogma, by extreme-right governments, keeping any left voices shut. Apparently the Americans often used Turkey as a banana dictatorship often mixing with the internal affairs to a scary level, especially through the army.
The army played a huge role for Kemal – he was an army man himself, after all – and the army became his stronghold to establish and to preserve his work and the western style of democracy he was dreaming. However, during the years after the death of Kemal the Turkish army evolved just like the Mafia. They became the establishment controlling the bureaucracy and, in extent, the state behind the curtain, which is something often called the deep state.
As I said earlier, they evolved just like Mafia because in the ’80s they began laundering all these funds they were secretly getting from the government and from abroad – remember it was one of the strongholds against the expansion of communism south-east with borders with Russia, so secret services and ‘institutes’ were sending a lot, literally, a lot of money. In the ‘8os came the time to invest this money, it was good timing as well and the army gradually got involved with civilian businesses, with investments that amounted to billions of dollars and profits that escalated in the millions. So now the army, except Kemal’s dream, had other interests to protect as well and they did so in any possible way, such as imprisoning, torturing and killing. The Kurds and the communists were always the good excuse until the mayor of Istanbul became a force they couldn’t stop.
Erdogan was part of the establishment and, simultaneously, he was at the edge of the circular state, a faithful Muslim and proven democrat politician who had great support from the people, people who had got tired of corrupt politicians, so corrupt that some of them, despite their positions in the government, were dealing with drugs and arms sales. Erdogan somehow took them by surprise, they used all the tricks to stop him and he survived to become prime minister with many hopes to be the next president and, to their greatest surprise, he seems to be the only one who can make Kemal’s dream reality. Erdogan put Turkey literally on the European map with their application to become a full membership in the EU – their only hope is also their nemesis.
Things have definitely changed in the west after 9-11, but somehow the west has to show tolerance to the Muslim world and Erdogan became the best way to do it. By defending and supporting a ‘west friendly’ Muslim politician, the west proves tolerance and makes the Turkish army feel even more uncomfortable and Erdogan is cleverly using it to advance towards the army and return them to where they really belong, their barracks. It is time to strip them from all their civilian involvements and return the state to where it really belongs. As odd as it might sound, the only hope for democracy in Turkey is Erdogan and, as crazy it might sound, the man is Turkey’s only chance to keep the country away from the religious freaks that are expanding fast from the Middle East with a …little help from Iran!