Seldom has a society chosen a more traditional scapegoat: There has almost never been a sizeable liberal political movement in Turkey's history, but "liberals" are defined from very diverse political viewpoints as "liboş," a very Turkish slang term combining the words "liberal" and "gay." The term remains extremely pejorative, which is practical for a society where homophobia is just only being seen as a shameful act. Being liberal is definitely shameful, seen from whatever political viewpoint.
This looks hard to understand and evaluate, because on the other hand liberal economics have been espoused by virtually all the governments since 1921. The İzmir Economic Congress, which has been organised by the victorious Turkish revolution, two years prior to the declaration of the Republic, has opted for a "liberal" economic development perspective. This was very likely done to show the Western powers that the new Turkey would not opt for a "Sovietized" model, at a time when even Lenin was trying to inject some liberalism and market economy in its socialist model, through the implementation of NEP. The 1929 crisis has obliged Turkey to opt definitely for a "statist" policy, which went well under World War II circumstances. Afterwards, starting from 1950 and with the Democrat Party of Menderes in power, a more liberal approach has been cautiously put in place, but the "statist" rock bed of the economy remained, especially concerning the industry. Despite the coup d'état in 1960, the military in power, (being mostly impregnated with a third worldist ideology) did not deviate from a mostly liberal "import substitution" policy. The association agreement with the European Economic Community was signed in 1963.
The real "liberalization" of the Turkish economy came after 1980 January reforms. Unfortunately, eight months later there was the most deep-going military intervention in Turkish political history. Therefore, political liberalization was totally forgotten at a time when economic liberalization was at its peak. Plainly no one really wanted a "liberal" line in politics in Turkey. Some important figures can always be cited, starting from Prince Sabahaddin before the Republic to Adnan Kahveci, minister and confident to Turgut Özal, who died in obscure circumstances, but they remain rare exceptions and none of them could lead any political current worth this name. On top of it, a very "harsh" and violent policy-making style has impregnated all political parties and has created, much before the AK Party period, a much polarised political arena.
Anyone trying to put some distance between a political movement (in power or in the opposition) is labeled either as dönek (renegade) or "liboş," or sometimes both. The consonance of the word "liboş" can bear a number of different meanings: Hatred of the intellectual, hatred of self-criticism, hatred of differences, denial of pluralism et cetera. None of the meanings this word can have remains non-pejorative, non-violent. In a way, the search for "liboş" is always a rewarding performance, so long as any hesitation on the part of any person labeled "liboş" represents a strong justification for one's own intransigence. It works as a very strong self-congratulating factor: Cemil Bayık, the leader of the armed wing of PKK on Mount Qandil in Northern Iraq, is as disdainful of the "liboş" of Cihangir (a simili-Quartier Latin in Istanbul) as a very democratic columnist who thinks AK Party's strength today stems from the supports of "liboş."
In the total absence of any empathy, the political debate in Turkey is likely to use the term "liboş" for a long time to come, unfortunately.
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