By Ekrem Dumanlı, Today's Zaman
Turkey is a strange country. A significant part of its conflicts are not genuine, and when conflicts are aggravated by the media for the purpose of preserving the status quo, we are faced with a startling situation. However, this "reality" doesn't reflect the truth; at least not in its entirety, and there are a plethora of examples to prove my claim.
Consider this: Turkey began the '80s in the shadow of conflict between the left and right. Such was the polarization that even members of families were transformed into enemies. Just as the left had "safe havens," so did the right. Nobody dared to cross into quarters controlled by the opposition. Youth had taken to the streets. There were boycotts, strikes, arrests and murders… Every day an average of 30 people would be killed. People who didn't know each other drew weapons on each other. Hell was unleashed by each and every murder; protests were staged which precipitated new incidents. Murders were committed by those who would never be caught, there were dark connections and spectacular happenings… So what ultimately happened? One night there was a coup (Sept. 12, 1980), and everything changed overnight. The hatchets were buried, the fights ended; friendships were struck up; business ties were forged; and, marriages were even made. The coup was something horrendous; it was totally inhumane. People were persecuted, injustices were done. This is true, but how was it that the fights ended all of a sudden? There was a conspiratorial side to the events, which led to the last prime minister of the pre-coup period, Süleyman Demirel, complaining, "What happened on the morning of Sept. 12 that ended the violence? We had already endowed our soldiers with all the needed authority." OK; Demirel was right. This is only one aspect of the whole series of events, and there is a whole other side of the coin which reveals that the fight between the right and the left was artificial; it had no ideological foundation or social origin.
Most of the continuing fractures that give rise to foreign misconceptions about our country are akin to this situation. There is no social reality behind any of them. Certain powers generate a certain atmosphere and set people against one another. Thus every event widens the gaps between us. It cannot be said that the events reported by the media in a sensationalist tone have an impact on society. However, the hatred harbored behind the scenes created by media-status quo partnership is temporary and is devoid of depth.
An example of this can be seen in the Alevi and Sunni populations that have shared what is now Turkey for centuries. Sometimes, differences are incited and the inciters get what they want. But these people are ultimately our neighbors, friends and partners. When the excitement simmers down, the channels of communication are reopened and friendships are rekindled.
A similar interpretation can be given to the Kurdish issue. Can it be understood that the racist and terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and the Turkish Army, who have been fighting each other for nearly three decades, are not catalysts for a more general pitting of Kurds and Turks against each another? The overwhelming majority of both groups is Muslim, and Islam very clearly condemns and curses all racism and terrorism. "Killing a human being is tantamount to killing the whole of humanity," the Holy Koran declares. Friendships and even kinships that have been formed over centuries are put into question. As a result, from one perspective there are conflicts and people are dying, but from another, people continue to live and work in the same shared spaces.
A few days ago, the newly elected deputies set foot in Parliament. The Kurdish deputies and the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) shook hands and the act was covered in headlines by the newspapers. It is really difficult for an outsider to fully appreciate this situation because there were those who were anticipating that the nationalist Turks and nationalist Kurds would begin fighting each other on the very first day and that a massive conflict would ensue. None of these predictions came to pass, at least partly because the social dynamic is pressing for dialogue rather than for fighting.
Despite all this, there is still a high degree of risk. The PKK and its imprisoned leader, Abdullah Öcalan, have already started applying pressure on the independent Kurdish deputies. The press agency of the terrorist group, Gündem, has started publishing statements by Öcalan, aka Apo. Apo is attempting to exercise influence over the deputies. There are also those trying to stir up the MHP deputies. However, when you boil the situation down to basics, it is clear that people in Turkey don't wish to be divided into camps and poles. It was for this reason that people abominated the extreme secularist statements made during the republican rallies and, ultimately, gave the AK Party over 47 percent of the vote. This was a form of protest. People were protesting the media, the status quo and the institutions that feed on such conflict.
A new page has been turned in a new parliament. On July 22, the citizens punished those who had given the impression that there were two Turkeys. In practice the citizen imposed a heavy sentence on the left, which was acting as if there were a secular/religious divide in Turkey, by cutting its vote to 20 percent. Perhaps in the next elections, it will punish those who favor discord in the current legislative session because the electorate desires a single, but a pluralist, Turkey which is a participatory democracy. It just doesn't want two Turkeys.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 07 Ağustos 2007, 09:46