The struggle for a country’s soul

The struggle for a country’s soul

The Independent – United Kingdom
Published: Jul 21, 2007

Pressures from the various forces in Turkish society have been building
for some time now. Despite its economically liberal and modernising
record in office, the ruling AK Party has been probing the staunchly
secularist constitution. The AKP put forward the devoutly religious
foreign minister Abdullah Gul for the post of president earlier this
year. And it has mooted a relaxation of the ban on headscarves in
government buildings.

As a result of this, hard-line secularists have been growing
restive. Their supporters came out in force to demonstrate against
Mr Gul’s appointment, forcing the government to back down. The
nationalist establishment has been flexing its muscles too, pressing
for the prosecution of those who have "insulted Turkish-ness". The
murder of the Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink in Istanbul by
a young man with links to the army also raises disturbing questions
about the military’s commitment to the rule of law. Meanwhile, the
Kurdish minority in the south east has been stirring. The autocratic
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened an invasion of
the Kurdish-controlled region of Iraq if Kurdish guerrilla attacks
within Turkey’s borders do not cease.

Sadly, tomorrow’s elections are unlikely to help to resolve Turkey’s
inner contradictions. The AKP is likely to retain power with a
reduced majority. But a question mark remains over the identity of
the new candidate the party will nominate for the presidency. If it
puts forward another candidate with a background in political Islam,
another constitutional crisis could be in store. Growing Kurdish
autonomy in Iraq presents a destabilising threat too, as it is likely
to intensify separatist sentiment among Turkish Kurds. We can only
hope that the likely increase in Kurdish representation in parliament
will boost the search for a political settlement. The behaviour of the
European Union will be crucial too. If there is more scorn poured on
Turkey’s EU membership application by European capitals, the forces
of hard-line nationalism in the country will inevitably grow stronger.

All the signs are that we are in the early stages of a struggle for
Turkey’s soul. It is a struggle with implications for democracy,
Islam and secularism around the world. It will shape the future of
the European Union and the Middle East. Whether we realise it or not,
we all have a strong interest in the outcome.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

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Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS