The significance of Erdoğan's visit to the US

Published 08.04.2016 23:21

Turkey has passed through a number of crucial points during the Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) tenure at the helm of government and has broken new ground. During its first years in power, the AK Party was presented as an anti-establishment political party by its enemies. In fact, the classical regime of the Republic of Turkey, which was founded by the civil and military bureaucratic elite, always looked askance at powerful political parties and often terminated their activities through bureaucratic and military interventions.During the first years of the AK Party's power, military intervention had been an ordinary subject of daily conversation. Yet the AK Party brilliantly managed to overcome the threat by following the course of the European Union in preventing military coups and democratizing the state. By also strengthening the economy, the AK Party's political power was applauded by liberal and leftist groups. As a matter of fact, the Western press supported this process of development and democratization for years.

"New Turkey" has been defined as a country that is democratized, economically developed and free from military tutelage. It is also known as a country that improves the social conditions of those with low incomes, re-establishes the country's bonds with its cultural geography, manages good relations with the West and acts as a developed and important state in the international arena.

This political model of the new Turkey as one that provides freedom of thought and faith for devout people as a Muslim-majority country drives the democratic system and bestows economic prosperity and welfare that helped serve as a trigger for the Arab Spring.

Western countries were confronted with a dilemma with the Arab Spring. They could work either with moderate Islamist political parties such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt or Ennahda in Tunisia or with dictators and their radical terrorist organizations. Being scared of the possible results that would follow democratic reform, the West chose to work with their classical allies, the dictators.

The democratic wave that rose in the Arab world dramatically changed Turkey's position in the international arena. But the current world system is still not ready for a democratic alliance in the Middle East that would see Turkey, Egypt and Syria as close friends.

The "White Turks" that sealed the fate of Turkey for 80 years, the Gülen Movement that emerged as a religious congregation, retired military personnel that craved military coups and the PKK together with marginal leftist organizations have begun to produce discourses that argue Ankara aids DAESH, Turkey has a civil dictatorship, the president's on-man rule and Turkey's repressive policies that are aimed at undermining the new Turkey and the project it represents.

Inciting violence in the country through its bureaucratic force within the police and the judiciary, the Gülen Movement aimed at weakening the AK Party's strong bonds with the public. The attempts to lay hold of the Fenerbahçe Sport Club, brutal police responses to university student protests and the wiretapping of tens of thousands of people under the pretext of investigations for prospective military coups were all realized by the Gülen Movement, which laid the blame of those crimes on the AK Party government.

It is well known that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is one of the most equitable and prudential, but at the same time one of the most resolute political leaders of the world. Apart from the Gülen Movement, White Turks and marginal leftist organizations, it is also possible to identify an inside Jacobin group that radicalized the policies of the AK Party. Thus, all these groups are responsible for making Turkey's policies look questionable both inside and outside the country.

Aiming at preventing Turkey's political, cultural and economic ascent, these groups promoted their agendas in Western countries. Together with some civil society organizations working with marginal political groups and supported by Western states, these groups aimed at spoiling Turkey's image in the international arena.

Indeed, the Turkish state has always failed to carry out successful lobbying activities abroad and the government's attempts to ameliorate Turkey's image could not be achieved through a narrow bureaucratic cadre restricted to the issues of relations with the United States, Israel, Egypt and Russia, and accusations over alleged aid to DAESH, a group that has in fact been attacking Turkey in tandem with the PKK.

For setting the agenda in the Western world regarding Turkey, Erdoğan's visit to the United States was significant, but it needs to be the start of something new. It is imperative to establish permanent mechanisms to communicate our position systematically, sincerely and openly in the West as perception is everything in our globalized world.

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