While the Republic is transforming

Published 01.11.2014 01:24

This week, Turkey marked the 91st anniversary of the Republic that was "founded by Atatürk." It is quite comprehensible attributing a system, which is constituted in the first years of a regime, to a single person. When people are worried about the collapse of the old regime and feel uncertainty about the future, they may need to gather around a single person who is there to represent the entirety of society pushing all political, social, cultural and economic differences to the background. Thus, a new trust relationship arises under the appearance of a "family." As the Republic emerged with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, it manipulated this sense of worry and need of trust. The sense of isolation was consolidated further with the Western countries' endeavors to grab a share of the remnants of a disintegrated empire and some Muslim countries' transformation into nation-states by seceding from the Ottoman Empire. In order to make up for this, Mustafa Kemal tried to develop a sense of self-confidence through the Turkish identity. As the Ottoman Empire was sorely defeated, he reached back to Central Asia to seek Turkish roots and produced an imaginary history of "Turkishness."

All of these were not innocent steps at all, as the "breakaway" from the Ottoman Empire indicated the emergence of a new ruling stratum, rather than a new regime. This ruling class saved the country and introduced a path of modernization. The religion, which was regarded as the greatest obstacle to modernization, was no longer a desirable factor. Thus, a vast majority of Anatolian people, who were stigmatized as "bigots" due to their religious identities, were alienated from the public sphere. The new regime was set to modernize people, which required adoption of the West's behavioral patterns and a rapid development with economic centralization. Almost all of the reforms were designed to sever ties with the past and to establish a completely new nation. Despite constituting the minority, the ruling class had a legitimacy that was nourished by the scientific aspect of secularism, which allowed it to exercise dominance over the majority. As the holder of new privileges, this secular section that was formed within the state dominated the entirety of the public realm.

The new regime could maintain this order only by establishing a dictatorship, which closed all opposition parties and almost completely eliminated freedom of expression. The dissenters were intimidated, imprisoned, executed or exiled. Oddly enough, all of this occurred between 1922 and 1932 when all European countries, with the exception of three, were governed by democracy and democratic discourse was on the march in Europe. Thus, the regime was alleviated with the fascism prevailing in Europe, which saw the "truth" and adjusted itself to Turkey. It was not so easy to get used to the multiparty system that was compulsorily adopted after World War II. In the 50-year period that followed World War II, Turkey experienced at least 10 attempted coups, some of which failed and others succeeded. With the 1982 Constitution, a tutelage regime was introduced, which made the judiciary and law advocator of itself.

The modern state founded by "Mustafa Kemal" could neither produce a society from the divided communities nor could it switch to secularism in the full sense of the world. It could not make the law an arbitration body either. This was the situation of Turkey when the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) came into power in 2002. This has not yet changed. In the past decade, Turkey has not yet confronted the question of how to rule the country, as the AK Party has not yet been accepted by the former "owners" of the country. This causes us to live in a contentious environment, which is dominated by question of "who" will rule the democracy.

Although Turkey has been ruled by the Republican regime for 91 years, it is still too far from democracy, which is the core of this regime. We still find it strange, and democratic success has yet to be appreciated, apart from eliminating the blatantly wrong.

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