In the wake of a presidential election

Published 04.07.2014 00:43
Updated 05.07.2014 01:14

If we told a foreigner, "Turks are just now finding out that they live in the Middle East," they would not believe it. They would think it impossible. However, our beliefs are stronger, more persistent and decisive than our mentality maps. Turkey's national education policies have hidden from its own citizens the fact that Turkey is a Middle Eastern country. The official ideology had created an imaginary geography.

At first, this geography resembled an island created by digging ditches around it. It was as if we had been put under treatment at a secluded sanatorium to ease the pain of the wounds that remained after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. We were spending our days with dreams of "contemporary civilization." The waiting was in vain!

After World War II, a new era started that was full of disappointment. Political elites fancied themselves "Westerners" and tried to turn the country into "little America," but they could not find the sympathy they had expected from the West at all… For educated Turks, the Middle East meant Israel. We were also interested in the tabloid world of the Pahlavi Dynasty in Iran, that's all. Arabs had been deleted from our reality, pushed to a far-off continent, so to speak.

For elites of Istanbul, Ankara and İzmir, being reminded that we share the same religion with Arabs was a sore point. When this topic was breached, their faces fell, their hands trembled, and they were at a loss as to how to drop the subject.

Meanwhile, Turkey's political geography had morphed into something resembling the giant aircraft carrier of NATO. The 1970s constitutes a small exception: The fever for the Palestinian cause that enveloped the whole world affected secular Turkish intellectuals as well. It is difficult to explain to the current generation, but for our intellectuals, Palestinian freedom-fighters of the '70s were the victimized but very sophisticated "Europeans" of the Middle East.

I remember that even my most revolutionary, humanist, and most ardently pro-third world friends used to emphasize, again and again, the existence of blonde Palestinians and the high literacy rate among Palestinians. Such a reality was formed in our minds: Arabs and Palestinians were different people! While Arabs were in the Middle East, Palestinians were at the heart of global revolution! Arabs were dirty, Palestinians were clean. Then the international conjuncture changed and that era ended. The emergence of Hamas, an organization of bearded Islamists, has consolidated the patterns of official ideology once again.

Israel had won the war of realities. Thus the narrow door to the Middle East once again closed and the White Turks returned to their slumber. However, all official lies eventually come to an end and every dream that is disconnected from the truth is broken. We got to the end of an era. The old Republic ends along with its own world.

The Turkey of the old political elites, who were lulled by the West for years with vain hopes and cheap privileges, is coming to an end. After the president is elected by popular vote, the pages of this book are clapping shut both democratically and symbolically.

So what will happen next? In the wake of presidential elections if we want to strengthen our ties with Europe, we will do this not in a dream world but in reality. However, no matter what happens, we will never again treat the geography we are in, a remnant of the Ottoman Empire, as a faraway land like Australia.

Most importantly, we will not ignore those people with whom we share the same spiritual climate and resources. Those days are long past. There is no way to turn back the clock Both the West and the old political elite have to get this into their collective head.

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