On October 29 Turkey celebrates her national day, the founding of the Republic. The Republic is the rise of a nation from a multinational empire brought to its knees after decades of wars interrupted only by short intervals. The loss of life and treasures for retrieving the nation from the jaws of the Western colonial powers were enormous. The success was not crowned by reviving and reinstating the inapt theocratic regime of 600 years, but by founding a republic.
Constitutions are collective birth certificates, genetic maps, identification documents of the people who shed their blood to own their land, and organized to live and prosper in social peace forever. Constitutions are traditionally called a Social Contract. The Turkish Constitution also reflects Turks’ historical experiences and peculiarities. These characteristics and principles may be summarized as follows: democracy (people’s sovereignty), republican regime (representational system and separation of powers), secularism (laic style), respect for human rights, nationalism (unitary state based on common history, common destiny, common language and culture), social peace and justice (respect for law), and progressiveness (the objective of joining the contemporary civilization). These core principles of the Turkish Constitution are also principles respected by the free world; but the current administration calls the Constitution a military one, not a civilian or democratic one.
There is no reason for celebration of this Republic if its original core values are abandoned or changed. In fact, Turks must be celebrating another republic this year, a republic in transformation for some time. The characteristics, priorities, identity and principles of the nation underwent a dramatic change. The Republic is no longer the same as it was at its inception. Although the efforts to reflect the changes in the Constitution are currently underway, we can presently identify the changes.
From secularity to religiosity
Beginning approximately in 1945 (the end of WWII and the beginning of the pluralist politics in Turkey) the Republic’s original principles became election tools for political parties. First to be manipulated was secularism. Education of religion started with the introduction of classes on religion in 1949, which escalated under the current Islamist regime to thousands of educational institutions ranging from Koran courses to universities to indoctrinate the people. Imam diplomas are recognized for public service. Then there was the relegation of women to a lower social status under the pretense of false religious traditions. Women’s distinguishing apparel and discrimination in social events are wide spread. One third of girls are not given a chance for education. Such practices were not achieved by changing laws but by exerting social pressure, and simultaneously branding secularism as atheism and fascism. Under the pretense of freedom of religion the current administration is engaged in a social engineering to Islamicize the country. The Constitutional Court found in a historic judgment in 2008 that the current administration and the ruling party are in breach of the Constitution at least so far as the secularity of its actions is concerned.
From democracy to autocracy
Next to be diluted was the representational system. Although elections still exist, they are so skewed that we cannot speak of fair representation of people and of a public will. Public dissent is suppressed. The recent use of the judiciary and the law enforcement to suppress dissent (from the prosecution of a 14 year old boy to the head of a political party), or to force dissenting big businesses to surrender their business to party supporters are glaring examples. Under the pretense of democratization, laws have been changed or introduced to enable awarding government contracts to family members or to cronies. The ruling party surrogates now control most television and radio stations. The remainder of the media is kept under constant law suits filed by the ruling party. Police force and the public prosecutors keep not only individuals, the media, businesses and the academia under surveillance, but also the judiciary (including constitutional court members) and the military. Human rights are no longer respected. The general appearance is such that there are all the indications of a police state. In fact, the highest official of the country publicly stated that “the State’s well being is in the hands of the police force”, not in those of the people or even of the judiciary. This has been achieved by inundating the police force with the elements of a very powerful international religious movement called Gulen (which ironically translates into English as “laughing”). Gulen is also the spiritual leader and the mentor of the ruling party. Their common policy aspires to the Ottoman leadership of the Muslim world. Although the government tries to play it both ways, its political and business ties to the Muslim countries led the people to gradually turn its back to the West and embrace the Islamic brotherhood.
From unity to divisiveness
Finally, the constitutional characteristic of nationalism is on its way out. Turkish nationalism, defined in the Constitution as for security and unity of the state, is now branded as fascism; while Kurdish ethnic activism is encouraged as a democratic action. If there was a nationalist ideology in Turkey at all, there is now an ethnic ideology in addition to a religious one. The constitutional principle of social peace is defeated. A unitary state has become questionable. Ethnic separation is discussed as a solution to the ethnic terrorism that claimed tens of thousands of lives and billions of dollars in funds in twenty-five years.
A debased constitution
The Constitution, as it was conceived, can no longer stand. Its foundational pillars are demolished. It is emptied out of its substance, its characteristics, and its identity. There is still a nation, of course, but it identifies and characterizes itself differently. Therefore, one might ask what Turks are celebrating this year: The demolition of the original Republic built by the blood and callused hands of their forefathers, or a new one to be written under the spell of religion and of terrorism? Turkey seems to have lost its rudder in the pluralist political storm. There seems to exist an uncertainty in Turkish national will, national unity, and national identity. A divided and confused society can no longer take control of its own affairs (democracy); the administration fills in the vacuum and takes charge with an iron fist (autocracy).
US guidance as the leader for democracy and for people’s rights
The present Turkish administration is in denial of the erosion of the Republic’s values. They explain it away with dissimulation typical to Islamic tradition. They reinterpret secularism, democracy, nationalism. The US, the promoter of democracy around the world, seems not only to accept these false explanations, but also to support them actively. One example of the US’ active contribution to Turkish Islamization is its sheltering of a follower of the Kurdish Sheik Saidi-Kurdi. A self-made cleric called Gulen operates out of the US to spread the concept of a peaceful Islam under the cover of interfaith dialogue. The CIA is reported (and not denied) to provide financial support to the group for the ill-conceived idea that Islam would be a deterrent to Russian expansion and to Islamic terrorism. Several investigative reports published about the worldwide network of the Gulen group reveal that his apostles operate in 55 countries about 250 schools from elementary to university level, hospitals, and numerous mosques. In Turkey he operates about 1000 foundations, schools from elementary to university level, dormitories, mosques, businesses, including a bank and an insurance company, and numerous media outlets. In 27 US states 57 such non-profit organizations are active (being tax-exempt we all contribute to their undesirable activities). A grandiose mosque and a “cultural” center will be built on 60 hectares in the Washington area. The group lobbies the Congress and the administration, and has gained considerable backing from several politicians, retired ambassadors, and academics. In other words, the Gulen group operates in the US like the Saudi ‘Rabita-tul Alem-ul Islam’ operated prior to J. Woolsey’s excellent report in 2006. It was only because of the 9/11 disaster that Saudi operation in the US was finally busted, including the repatriation of the ambassador who was very influential at the highest levels of Washington political circles. J. Woolsey should be called back to prepare a report on the Gulen operation.
Gulen’s hidden but true objective is to stealthily creep Islamic values into the fabric of the world politics under the disguise of interfaith reconciliation. Statements or actions of Islamists are no indicators of their real and underlying objective (dissimulation). The objective of this movement is clearly not to modernize Islam but to Islamize modernity, be it without violence. Many Islamic and political leaders publicly pronounced that there is no moderate or un-moderate Islam, there is Islam. An interfaith reconciliation is wool over the eyes of infidels, while pulling the carpet from under “them”. Their advantage is that the loudest voice, the most aggressive, and the one most financially powerful will have the last word in democracy; “Despotism of democracy”, in the words of De Tocqueville. They are well aware that promoting religiosity in democracy is killing democracy in the name of democracy. Recent proposals by some naïve politicians and even church officials in England, Germany, and Switzerland to allow Sharia law to be applied to their Muslim citizens are glaring examples of the creeping Islamization of Europe.
The US is clearly preparing the Kurds for statehood, presumably with the expectation that a Kurdish state in the region would bolster the containment of Iran as well as the security of Israel and of Irak oil. There may also be the consideration that the US is indebted to Kurds for the support they rendered in the Iraq war. And then, there has always been hypocrisy on the question of nationalism. A Kurdish independence is encouraged on the premise of democracy, all the while not supporting the Cypriot Turkish national independence from the discriminatory and oppressive Greek community. Nationalism in the US is called patriotism, in Europe Nazism, in Ireland separatism, in Srilanka terrorism, etc. In reality it is defined and used as a tool for international political ends.
The true guide
Most scholars in the field suggest that the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire was basically due to autocratic administration, corruption, and incessant foreign interference. The similar current state of affairs must certainly be a wakeup call for Turks. They need to take matters into their own hands, defend their constitutional values, and save democracy from democracy itself. They must also realize that the foreign support given to Kurdish nationalism in breach of international principles gives Turks an equal right to rise and defend their own nationalism. September 2009, Metin Camcigil, Former President of the Atatürk Society of America