Brave New Turkey
Two visions for the future of Turkey collide: that of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who wants to create a religious state, and that of President Abdullah Gül, who believes in a pluralist regime, in which every belief and culture can find a place.
Since last June's Gezi Park demonstrations, which spread to most of Turkey, there has been no limit to the Turkish AKP (Justice and Development Party) government's paranoid attempts to suppress potential opposition. According to the Turkish press, the latest move is a new regulation, introduced jointly by the justice and interior ministries, that will allow the police to detain anyone they suspect will stage a protest from 12 to 24 hours without a court decision.
The outcry from the opposition, who spoke of "a police state" and "a return to the Inquisition," has caused Prime Minister Erdoğan to deny the reports and claim they were a fabrication.
But the mind boggles. What else does the AKP government have in mind? The creation of thought police, who would be authorized to round up and detain artists, journalists, academics and other government critics for crimes that they might commit? Or the introduction of religious police, as in Saudi Arabia, Iran or Gaza, to ensure that the population abides by the moral codes approved of by the government?
Last week, in another step towards creating an "advanced democracy," Turkey's Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, unveiled a long awaited democratization package -- however, journalists present were not allowed to ask questions. The main aim was to allow fuller freedoms for Turkey's restive Kurds, although the proposed reforms -- including a reduction of the electoral threshold, the right to education in Kurdish at private schools and financial support for small political parties -- fell far short of their ultimate demand for regional autonomy.
Another important reform, which will satisfy Erdoğan's electoral base, is the removal of the headscarf ban for employees in public offices -- apart from judges, prosecutors, police officers and members of the armed forces. In the light of the latest move by the justice and interior ministries, the proposal to allow meetings and demonstrations in open areas until sunset and in closed spaces until midnight seems illusory.
Keeping in mind the recent 10-month prison sentence handed out to the pianist Fazil Say for blasphemy, it is also notable that the punishment for hate crimes will be increased from one to three years. It is believed that the proposal may be revised to allow for changes in the Penal Code and Anti-Terror Law, leading to the release of Kurds imprisoned for their membership of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), the alleged urban wing of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
The AKP government's main preoccupation is the outcome of the local elections in March, as they will determine Prime Minister Erdoğan's level of support since last June's demonstrations. However, as this mainly comes from the urban grassroots in Istanbul and Ankara as well as rural Anatolia -- and not the urban middle class, who were behind the demonstrations -- he can still count on their support. It is for this reason the Kurdish vote, either for the AKP or the Kurdish BDP [Peace and Democracy Party], is important and in particular to secure the BDP's support for the government.
Now that Erdoğan's plans for an executive style of presidency have proven to be a non-starter, the question is what the prime minister's next move will be: his third term of office runs out in 2015.
President Abdullah Gül's term of office, however, runs out next August; and at the conclusion of his speech at the opening of parliament last week, he indicated that he might run for a second term of office.
The president's speech, in fact, marked the difference in approach between Gül and his old colleague and co-founder of the AKP, Erdoğan. Gül viewed the peaceful demonstrations of the young people at Gezi Park as "a new manifestation of our democratic maturity" and warned against Turkey's increasing polarization. He further emphasized that the separation of powers, a free press, and an effective opposition are also among the indispensable elements of democracy.
Not only in the Turkish parliament but also in international fora, Gül sounds more like a statesman than a politician. At the U.N. General Assembly, Gül warned of the threat posed by extremist groups to the prospects of a peaceful solution in Syria, and at the Istanbul Forum he repeated that the combination of geopolitical interests and ethno-sectarian identity politics could carry the Islamic world back to the dark ages similar to those in Europe.
Once again, Gül stated his belief that there is no dichotomy between Islam and democracy; in his view, a pluralist regime, in which every belief and culture can find a place, is attractive for all. There is no doubt that Gül can talk the talk, but if it comes to a contest with Erdoğan, the question is whose vision for Turkey will prevail.
Robert Ellis, a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute, is a regular commentator on Turkish affairs in the Danish and international press.
Reader comments on this item
|Islam and Turkey [32 words]||Sima Arnett||Oct 27, 2013 19:54|
Comment on this item
by Soeren Kern
Hamas would likely resort to violence to thwart any attempts to disarm the group. It is therefore highly unlikely the Europeans would confront Hamas in any meaningful way.
Spanish intelligence agents met secretly with Hezbollah operatives, who agreed to provide "escorts" to protect Spanish UNIFIL patrols. The quid pro quo was that Spanish troops would look the other way while Hezbollah was allowed to rearm for its next war with Israel. Hezbollah's message to Spain was: mind your own business.
If the European experience with Hezbollah in Lebanon is any indication, not only will Hamas not be disarmed, it will be rearmed as European monitors look on and do nothing.
What is clear is that European leaders have never been committed to honoring either the letter or the spirit of UN Resolutions 1559, 1680 and 1701, all of which were aimed at preventing Hezbollah from rearming.
by Debalina Ghoshal
According to former Bush administration official Stephen Rademaker, for the United States to respond to Russian violations of the treaty by pulling out of it would be "welcome in Moscow," which is "wrestling with the question of how they terminate [the treaty]" and thus, the United States should not make it easier for the Russians to leave.
by Guy Millière
Belgian security services have estimated that the number of European jihadists in Syria may be over 4000.
European leaders have directed their nastiest comments against the Jewish state, none of them has asked why Palestinian organizations in Gaza put their stockpiles of weapons in hospitals, homes, schools and mosques, or their command and control centers at the bottom of large apartment buildings or underneath hospitals. None of them has even said that Hamas is a terrorist organization despite its genocidal charter.
The majority of them are wedded to the idea of redistribution. Their policies are anti-growth, do not afford people any economic opportunity, and are what caused these economic crises in Europe in the first place. The United States seems to be following these thoroughly failed policies as well.
"Europe could not stay the same with a different population in it." — Christopher Caldwell, Reflections on the Revolution in Europe.
by Raymond Ibrahim
"I abducted your girls. I will sell them on the market, by Allah... There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell." — Abubakar Shekau, leader of Boko Haram.
Hillary Clinton repeatedly refused to designate Boko Haram a terrorist organization.
In Malaysia -- regularly portrayed in the West as a moderate Muslim nation -- any attempt to promote religions other than Islam is illegal.
"The reason they want to kill me is very clear -- it is because of being a convert to Christianity." — Hassan Muwanguzi, Uganda.
by Dexter Van Zile
Rev. Hanna Massad does not mention that perhaps Hamas actually wants the blockade to end so it can bring in more weapons and cement to build attack-tunnels so it can "finish the job."
Hamas does not just admit to using human shields, it brags about using human shields. Why does Massad have to inject an air of uncertainty about Hamas's use of human shields when no such uncertainty exists?
The problem is that any self-respecting journalist would confront Massad with a follow-up question about Hamas's ideology and violence, but not the folks at Christianity Today.