Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyib Erdogan this week unveiled his long-promised ‘reform’ package to chart the path of the nation for the next 10 years, that is, through 2023, 100 years after the founding of Turkey as a republic. Which is ironic, since Erdogan seems bent on abolishing the achievements of that republic in everything but the name.
Both Erdogan and Obama are incensed at the recent overthrow of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi because of his Muslim Brotherhood-inspired, tyrannical, Islamocentric regime which took away many basic human rights while trying to turn a secular Egypt into an Islamic state, headed for sharia rule. Yet, the plans that Erdogan has put forth, sound eerily reminiscent of Morsi and likely will have the same result. The Turkish people are already out in the streets protesting Erdogan’s Islamofascist-smelling policies.
NY Post Erdogan’s plan to amend the Constitution to replace the long-tested parliamentary system with a presidential one (with himself as president and commander-in-chief) is only part of it. He’d also undo the key achievement of Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey.
In the 1920s, Ataturk created the Turkish nation from the debris of the Ottoman Empire. Ataturk and the military and intellectual elite around him replaced Islam as the chief bond between the land’s many ethnic communities with Turkish nationhood.
Over the past 90 years, this project has not had 100 percent success. Nevertheless, it managed to create a strong sense of bonding among a majority of the citizens.
Now Erdogan is out to undermine that in two ways. The first, (and perhaps most dangerous) leg of Erdogan’s strategy is to re-energize his Islamist base. Hundreds of associations controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood are to take over state-owned mosques, religious sites and endowment properties — thus offering AKP a vast power base across Turkey.
Indirectly, Erdogan is telling Turks to stop seeing themselves as citizens of a secular state and, instead, as minorities living in a state dominated by the Sunni Muslim majority. Call it neo-Ottomanism.
Erdogan is using “Manzikert” as a slogan to sell his package. Yet this refers to a battle between the Seljuk Sultan Alp Arsalan and the Byzantine Emperor Romanos in 1071, the first great victory of Muslim armies against Christians in Asia Minor. It happened centuries before the Ottoman Turks arrived in the region.
Invoking the battle as a victory of Islam against “the Infidel,” Erdogan supposedly has an eye on the battle’s thousandth anniversary. Does he mean to take Turkey back 1,000 years? The Ottoman system divided the sultan’s subjects according to religious faith into dozens of “mullahs,” each allowed to enforce its own laws in personal and private domains while paying a poll tax.
Second, his package encourages many Turks to redefine their identities as minorities. For example, he has discovered the Lezgin minority and promises to allow its members to school their children in “their own language.”
Almost 20 percent of Turkey’s population may be of Lezgin and other Caucasian origin (among them the Charkess, Karachai, Udmurt and Dagestanis). Yet almost all of those have long forgotten their origins and melted in the larger pot of Turkish identity. What is the point of encouraging the re-emergence of minority identities?
Meanwhile, Erdogan is offering little to minorities that have managed to retain their identity over the past nine decades. Chief among these are the Kurds, 15 percent of the population. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, the AKP, partly owes its successive election victories to the Kurds. Without the Kurdish vote, AKP could not have collected more than 40 percent of the votes. Yet his package offers Kurds very little.
They would be allowed to use their language, but not to write it in their own alphabet. Nor could they use “w” and other letters that don’t exist in the Turkish-Latin alphabet but are frequent in Kurdish. Kurdish leaders tell me that the package grants no more than 5 percent of what they had demanded in long negotiations with Erdogan.