Turkey: Still Missing the Point

Category: World Affairs Topics: Abdullah Ocalan, Turkey Views: 590

In the midst of tribulation it is easy to lose perspective; and Turkey is indeed in the midst of tribulation.

By sentencing Abdullah Ocalan to death on June 29, Turkey upped the ante in its high stakes bid to maintain the nationalist integrity of the modern Turkish state. Founded on principles that -- either intentionally or unintentionally -- define it as a place for Turks, secular to the core and ever-eager to be an accepted member of the European community, Turkey now faces a scenario in which its delicate house of cards could come crashing down.

But as was the case with the recent controversy over Merve Kavakci's decision to wear the Islamically mandated headscarf in the Turkish parliament, the Ocalan trial/conviction is but a symptom of Turkey's inability to recognize its true identity. And if it were more in touch with that identity, certain segments of its population might not feel a need for organizations such as the PKK or political entities such as the Virtue Party.

So what is the Turkish identity? That is a complex question, one that would be better treated in 1000-page discourse on the history of the world. Turkey has been just that important to the progress of civilization. Therefore it might be easier to define what Turkey is not.

Turkey is not a secular society. Turkish people, almost homogeneously Muslim, are known throughout the Muslim world as some of the most spiritual and religious of Muslims. Home to several Sufi spiritual groups, Islam is as integral to the lives of Turks as it is to any group of people in the Muslim world. And given the almost 1400-year legacy of Islam in the region -- a legacy that left the political and religious solidly married to each other -- it is ludicrous to think that religion can be neatly cleaved into non-related, non-interacting parts.

Turkey also is not a land populated solely by Turks. Although 80 percent of people are defined as Turks -- who, by the way, are an interesting mix of racial and ethnic groups -- 20 percent of the population is Kurdish. Just think of all the countries throughout the world that give greater attention to minorities that make up far less than 20 percent of their populations. How then can Turkey expect to marginalize the Kurds.

But regardless of whether it's an issue of religion or ethnic makeup, Turkey is no doubt attempting to engineer cohesion rather than working towards establishing just consent amongst its people. As long as that continues, the Kavakcis and Ocalans will continue to be a thorn in Turkey's side.

Ali Asadullah is the Editor of iviews.com

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