Sunday, January 22, 2012

“Official Turkey” against “Civil Turkey”

The arrests of journalists and academicians in Turkey encouraged Turkish academics and intellectuals who live abroad to establish GIT. Their purpose is to safeguard academic freedom of expression in Turkey. However, recent events and reactions show that the problem of academic freedom of expression is not only confined in Turkey’s territory. Now it is attempting to reach beyond Turkey’s national borders. It is targeting civil initiatives of individuals and groups who don’t reside in Turkey and that struggle for further democratization of Turkey.

Cengiz Çandar’s article which appeared in Turkish daily Hurriyet on 29 October 2011 nicely illustrates this trend with an endeavor to explanation. He narrates the story of the establishment of “The Center for Turkey Studies and Development” in England.

“The Center is less than a year old and is headed by Ibrahim Dogus, a brilliant and skillful young activist in his early 30s. This center targets various sections of Turkish society in England: Turks, Kurds, Alevis, conservative Sunnis, and Cypriot Turks. All these groups are able to work collectively under Center’s roof. The Center is highly successful in its ability to exert influence upon English state institutions. There are 18 elected members from Turkey (12 of which are either Kurds or Alevis) in 32 London boroughs. The Center is in close relations with all these members and has played a significant role in some the members’ electoral success. The Center established strong ties with high rank and grassroots organizations of the political parties in England.

The Center was inaugurated on the 5th of April 2011 with the support of the Deputy Prime Minister, Liberal Party leader and coalition partner of conservatives, Nick Clegg. Our “state” suggested to Recep Tayyip Erdogan that during his London visit and meeting with Clegg he should mention that he [Clegg] should not participate at the inauguration of the Center. Despite this Nick Clegg made his inaugural speech.”

Çandar asks “What does this mean?” He thinks the foreign “Official Turkey” refrains from keeping contact with the foreign “Civil Turkey”, despite the latter’s attempts to form good relations. The foreign Official Turkey does not stop at impassivity; it actively takes part in lobbying against the foreign Civil Turkey. It encourages the Turkish Prime Minster to take action to damage foreign Civil Turkey’s favorable relations with English politicians.

For Çandar the predicaments that face Turkey is a function of government’s insistence on pursing the ways and habits of old, centralist, and highly bureaucratic state tradition. Its unsuccessful lobbying activity in London is just an epitome of the ways of Turkish aged centralist state tradition.

Çandar traces the wrong doings of this state mentality to the Van earthquake. He thinks the duel state authority and state’s failure to bring help to the needy during the Van earthquake is another instance which reflects this state mentality. The disaster also brought to the front the official state’s attitude towards the Kurdish population.

Çandar says “Even though in their speeches, in theory they acknowledge that they cannot administer everything from Ankara, in practice the government cannot get rid of the highly centralist state tradition. They made a mess of the rescue and aid operation in Van. … There is a political tension, if not an animosity between the government who commend the gigantic machinery called “state” and its bureaucracy, and the BDP (Peace and Democracy Party) who got the majority vote in Van.

For Çandar, there is a “Turkey of the state” and another “Turkey of the people.” The two Turkeys hardly converge. Van earthquake showed both Turkeys. Peoples solidarity in Van brings to mind the latter while the officials (Van Governor and security forces) inability to act in concert with the Van Municipality reminds us of the former. Çandar argues the old Turkish state reflexive reaction is still alive and with us it is highly effective both domestically and internationally and it works diligently to suppress civil Turkey both inside and outside.

Çandar also refers to Mehmet Ali Birand’s comment on the Van earthquake. Birand suggested that “from its lower to the higher ranks, the state bureaucracy and security forces look down on BDP. They assume a disdainful attitude. They are conditioned with only one outlook. They see BDP as a threat to the division of the country, hence their attitude towards BDP is always negative and unfavorable. Frankly speaking, they see BDP as an enemy.”

Çandar points to the “police mentality” behind all these predicaments. This police mentality pervades the opinions of civil security experts and of the bureaucracy. Albeit strong influence, this mentality has no chance to resolve the problems that have been plaguing Turkey for years now.

For Çandar the possible solution resides in AKP’s (meaning Recep Tayyip Erdogan), turning to their origins. It must not look down on people that gave birth to it. It should remember its origins and critically reflect upon whether it belong to the ‘civil’ Turkey or Turkey of the ‘state.’
Çandar argues that it is AKPs right to hold the power and command the ‘state,’ but it should refrain from metamorphosing into that ‘state.’ Rather it should take step to reform the state. Because metamorphosing into that ‘state’ is the utmost danger for a party who obtained %50 of the votes.

For Cengiz Çandar's October 29 article:

The Center for Turkey Studies and Development’s web site: