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Turkey Going Through a Period of Fear
|Turkey Going Through a Period of Fear » Nationalism With and Without Turkes » As Turks Get Thinner and Thinner » Newsmakers » The Fortnight in Perspective|
|Untitled 2 May, 1997, Turkish Probe issue 225, Copyright © Turkish Daily News
Turkey Going Through a Period of Fear
By Kemal Balci
Turkey is finding it difficult to emerge from the "labyrinth of fear," which it entered two months ago. The period of fear began with the National Security Council (MGK) taking at its Feb. 28 meeting 18 "package measures" against the threat of Islamic fundamentalism. The government led by Necmettin Erbakan, chairman of the Islamist Welfare Party (RP), has became hostage to fears 10 months after it was formed. Erbakan, in turn, has opted for trying to scare his rivals. Fearing a military coup himself, he is now threatening his rivals with the spectre of calling an early general election.
The 18 measures taken by the MGK and upheld by the government have met with disapproval by Erbakan's electoral base, which consists mostly of persons who have strong religious feelings, some of whom actually want a state system based on religion. The demand for the closing of the junior-high sections of clerical schools, especially, is becoming the most tangible factor which could cause the government to disintegrate.
Significantly, the chief of staff and the four force commanders who represent the MGK's military wing do not deny press reports and commentaries which say that the military will take the administration into their own hands if the government fails to take measures against the fundamentalist threat. The military circles obviously think that the coup fear enveloping the government, the Parliament and the general public, will facilitate the taking seriously the measures against fundamentalism. There is a widely-held conviction that the military circles' spreading of fear about a coup is preferable to their actually staging one.
Naturally, the government and its leader are affected most by the military's spreading fear of a coup. The political circles in Ankara have spent more than two months with the expectation that a coup will take place "at the end of the week. "Politicians become tense towards the end of each week due to the fact that in the past all military interventions took place on a Friday night.
Unable to get out of this "labyrinth of fear," Prime Minister Erbakan is trying to get results by scaring his own rivals. Refusing to withdraw from the government, he has played his trump card, putting on the table the possibility of an early election with the assumption that his political rivals would be wary of that. Indeed he has gotten the response he had sought. Starting with the main opposition party, his political opponents declared one by one that a snap election would serve no purpose other than enabling the RP to increase its votes.
RP's coalition partner the True Path Party (DYP) too is wary of being the target of a military coup but at the same time it is trying to spread more fear to be able to remain in power. The DYP is using the "if we quit the country will be left without a government," argument. DYP leader Tansu Ciller lives with the fear that if the government collapses -- due to a coup or otherwise -- her political rivals will become avenging angels. Thanks to the support of the coalition's senior partner she has avoided being sent to the Supreme Court as a result of several irregularity probes by the Parliament. She does not want to fall from power and experience the same fears once again. She is faced with a pressing fear of being sent to the Supreme Court through political pressure and being found guilty.
To avoid such a possibility she is trying to intimidate his rivals in and out of the party by saying, "The country would be left without a government. No other government could possibly emerge from this Parliament." Ciller knows very well that according to the Constitution a new government must be formed in 45 days. Otherwise the President would be entitled to dissolve the Parliament and order the formation of a caretaker government, which would serve for a period of three months. Since she has an ongoing "fight" with President Suleyman Demirel, she assumes that the president getting the executive power into his hands would jeopardize her own political future.
The ruling parties' fear involves the opposition parties too -- in a different dimension. By intensifying the "atmosphere of fear" tHe main opposition Motherland Party (ANAP) leader Mesut Yilmaz is contributing to the efforts aimed at toppling the government as soon as possible. Yilmaz's fear stems from his realization that if the government remains in office he himself will be disappearing from the Turkish political arena. Yilmaz, who has many rivals within the party, has pinned his hopes entirely on the collapse of the current government and on the ANAP becoming part of the new government. Otherwise, the ANAP rank and file, frustrated by the fact that the ANAP could not come to power except briefly in the past seven years, may pull him down from party leadership and send him into political oblivion.
Democratic Left Party (DSP) leader Bulent Ecevit too has his own fears. He fears that the democratic system will be brought to an end with a coup. On the other hand, he obviously is also wary of taking over the responsibility of forming a government if the present government falls and the coup is averted. After all the years he spent in the political arena, he does not want to be crushed under the weight of the country's problems and to be considered a political failure.Those who scare others have their own fears
Those caught in the "labyrinth of fear" seem to be fearing different things. The military thinks that the civilian politicians cannot prevent the anti-regime activities of fundamentalist movements, and that the secular, democratic republic is rapidly moving towards becoming an "Islamic republic." They fear that Turkey will be, just as Algeria was, crushed under a wave of fundamentalist terrorism. They are making certain plans and taking strategic measures because they fear that in case of a military coup the Islamist circles may start a civil war by putting up armed resistance. They are also wary of the international pressure they would come under in case of a military coup. One sign of this wariness is the visits high-ranking military officials have paid to world capitals such as Washington, Brussels and Bonn.What happens now?
The fact that two ministers resigned from the government prior to the latest MGK meeting on April 26, showed clearly that the "period of fear" is continuing and becoming more intense. Arguing that the RP being in power was increasing the danger of fundamentalism and seriously endangering the principle of secularism, and the government must fall so that the country can come out of this crisis, Industry Minister Yalim Erez and Health Minister Yildirim Aktuna of the DYP resigned from the government a few hours prior to the MGK meeting. Their move fuelled the expectation that the Parliament will resolve this issue without any need for a military intervention. Meanwhile, Aydin Menderes and six fellow RP dissidents urged the government to resign to end the "regime crisis." This too bolstered the hopes. But soon enough it became apparent that these dissident movements are not strong enough to topple the government. The movement Erez started in the DYP was limited to 10 persons. And three of Menderes's friends turned out to be quite unwilling to go ahead with that drive.
As a counter-measure the DYP and RP officials engaged in preparations to recruit deputies from the opposition parties, creating the impression that the losses arising from intraparty opposition can be offset. The government seems determined to stay on even at the risk of living in a "labyrinth of fear" with no way out "under military siege."Opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Deputy Aydin Guven Gurkan says, "This is something endurable. The most fitting climate for the situation. This too is a solution." He is not against having a government which does whatever the military tells them to do without an overt coup -- until a definite and lasting solution is found to the problem. He is adamant that the politicians get time until the Parliament shapes a project through debates and dialogue for the solution of the country's problems for the sake of the future.
DSP's Mumtaz Soysal, a former foreign minister, believes that the government has no future at all. He thinks that the military are so worried that they want to keep Tansu Ciller under permanent supervision. He says that it is not possible to get out of this crisis unless the political parties reach a consensus on a "contemporary republic project." According to Soysal this will happen sooner or later since no one has the right to surrender the country to anachronism.
An abyss at the end of the road?
In Ankara's political circles everybody is wondering about the end of the horror film being watched. No one knows what kind of surprise the script writer has up his sleeve. Everybody except Prime Minister Erbakan and his followers worry that the crisis will end with democracy plunging into an abyss.
What makes Erbakan optimistic is his conviction that the democratic countries of the West, whom he had seemed to be opposing all that time, would not permit a military intervention in Turkey. Also, he hopes that if he can gain a little more time most of the MGK member commanders will be sent into retirement -- and thus eliminated -- at the next Supreme Military Council meeting scheduled to take place at the beginning of July. But the commanders, aware of Erbakan's intentions, have already given him a message by making a general, the gendarmerie commander for the Erzurum region, speak up. This is a message along the lines of, "Those who will be stepping into our shoes see the threats directed at secularism and other basic principles of the republic, and they have far sharper views than we do."
Nationalism With and Without Turkes
By Dogu Ergil
The unusual crowd at the funeral of Mr. Alparslan Turkes, aliasBasbug (or the Fuhrer), of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) -- formerly the National Action Party (NAP) -- suggests that his brand of nationalism had an appeal among certain social strata. His party could not jump the required 10 percent vote hurdle in the last election but his ideology seems to have more supporters than his constituency.
Who are they? The MHP sympathizers and members of its youth organization, the "idealists" (Ulku ocaklari), hail from small- and medium-sized towns and are basically of lower middle-class origin. The majority of these towns are less developed central Anatolian settlements. Their populations are not increasing because of economic stagnation and migration to the metropolitan centers.
The younger generation who is either living in these mediocre towns or is now dwelling in the humble sections of cities feel caught up in the cultural tug of war.
They are faced with an identity crisis which cannot be resolved by relying on achieved qualities. In the front line of their acquired qualities stands their Turkishness and their religion -- in that order.
The original party, the NAP, and its youth organization gathered these people and glorified Turkishness to the point of making this quality a privilege over other ethnic groups. The party not only tried to overcome the inferiority complex of these strata but also imbued its supporters with the hope of uniting the divided Turkish world which extended from Bosnia to the Uighur territory of China. This imperial vision has proved to be the most effective mobilizing factor for the youth of a country who is struggling with problems of underdevelopment, modernization and global recognition.
Fuhrer Turkes needed a youthful, action-oriented constituency. The system was looking for social forces to counter the growing "left" of the '70s. Soon the Ulkucus, Turkes' idealist youth organization, were pushed into the political arena to fight against the "left" in general. They were said to be performing a sacred national duty. And they believed it.
That fight soon turned into street clashes and armed raids on coffee houses, schools, youth hostels and such as the nationalist youth received martial arts training in paramilitary camps. Was it Turkes who single-handedly concocted and executed this plan or was he only a peon whose ambitions coincided with greater forces, like gladio?
Many people, knowledgeable of the fact that NATO had an alternative defense plan for resistance to a likely soviet/communist invasion, believe that the "nationalist youth" received armed training and were later pushed onto the stage as part of this strategy. Formal protection of the right-wing thugs, criminals both according to the police and the courts, suggests that violence emanating from them was intentional and officially condoned. The increasingly restive and belligerent left had to be contained and their unpopular revolution attempt had to be aborted.
Thousands of people died on the streets of Turkey between 1971 (the year of another putsch!) and 1980 (hopefully the final pustch). Turkes' young wolves occupied center stage during this time, while he took part in running the country in the so-called "Nationalist Front" governments with Necmettin Erbakan and Suleyman Demirel. The prime minister of that time, Demirel, went down in history with his words, "You cannot make me say that right wingers are committing murders." But they were, and they were encouraged and protected for doing so.
The country fell into the vicious circle of violence-instabilty-poverty-political deadlock. Finally, the army stepped in once again and performed an urgent operation. It's funny how people, politicians included, cry, "It hurts, it hurts" after a military intervention, when they have not performed the necessary measures when society needed them most. Turkish politicians are like anesthetists who put the patient to sleep but never perform the corrective surgery. Then the military intervenes in the final instance to save the patient but there is no time for anesthetic. Of course the operation is painful.
The leaders of the 1980 military coup d'etat knew that the paramilitary force of the NAP would dilute their authority because the party was an alternative organization directly attached to the personality of Turkes.
So the Ulkucus and their bigger brothers were rounded up together with their leader and put in jail. Their trials dragged on. Most of their crimes were covered up, and some charges fell due to "lack of sufficient evidence or witnesses." Some were punished. It was during this time that the Ulkucu members were complaining, "We are in prison while our views are in power!" Indeed, this was the case. The leaders of the military regime were aware of the experience of Hitler with the storm troopers. They were a good vehicle to come to power but had to be dropped when a more powerful and orderly military force was available. So they were.
Turkes remained in prison for several years and was banned from politics as were the rest of the political leaders of the crisis before the 1980 coup. But he returned to active politics with a public referendum in the late 1980s and sat again in his seat in the party whose name had been converted yet again to, "Nationalist Movement Party."
Turkes, since that time, appeared to be representing the interests and protests of the downtrodden Turk who feels no more the master of his country but rather the victim without understanding why. Such a Turk has called for a strong, charismatic leadership to correct things.
What was Turkes's brand of nationalism? Simply said, he and his supporters saw society as a corporate entity, undifferentiated and solidarity-oriented. And that is what they wanted!...
They believed that history consisted of a struggle of nations so they wanted an "army-nation" which would always be victorious over the enemy. Although they did know how to build a strong nation, they never abandoned the vision of the soldier, thinking that if the nation armed itself to the teeth and obeyed the orders of its leaders everything would work out.
They never believed in the Ataturkist motto "Peace at home, peace in the world." Turkes and his followers wanted obedience at home and victory in the world. Moreover, they were not, and could never be, content with Turkishness confined to national borders. They wanted a Turkish empire, and that is why they have never really spoken about Ataturk as their leader or inspirer.
The final quality of Turkes's brand of nationalism is statism. In this, the state is the organized personification of a nation of solidarity, and resembles a clenched fist to hammer the heads of adversaries. Turkes introduced his partymates and the party's awesome youth organization along the following lines:
The contradiction does not end there. Although respectful of local/parochial values, Turkes' and the ANAP's insistence on standardizing society and opting for cultural uniformity further contributed to Turkish society's severance from its Ottoman past and its distanced from multicultural richness.
Democracy had no opportunity to flourish in this environment. All roads of the party mentality led to the notion of CONTROL. Control is a very static socio-political concept and has an built-in logic of violence, real or presumed, directed against change, differences and variety. For these are deviant and all deviations are threatening. "Internal and external enemies" can coalesce or exploit.
In short, Turkes and his party never became agents of a nationalist movement built on free expression and organization of the nation. Instead, they helped the nation's people to organize "within" and be subordinate to the state. They represented the state's interests and power within the nation. The individual was and remained a dependent agent with the nation as a conglomerate of dependent individuals.
Involvement of so-called "nationalists" in the Susurluk affair has demonstrated how amoral and valueless nationalism has become, reduced to love for country (not countrymen) and the state as the ultimate source of legitimacy and power. Another revelation of the Susurluk scandal is that any means used to protect the state is justified in "nationalistic terms." Human rights, the rule of the law, human life and dignity were and can be easily sacrificed for the continuation and protection of the state.
But when one looks at the nationalists who have taken on the burden of protecting the state, one can easily see it is they who need the state's protection and care.
How this contradiction and the growing differences between secular metropolitan nationalism and Islamic rural nationalism will be reconciled will make an intriguing study in the near future. Keep watching -- Turkey is a very interesting laboratory.
As Turks Get Thinner and Thinner
By Niki Gamm
Most Turks don't convert their salaries into dollars, but if they did perhaps they would realize just what was happening. They would then understand how much they were losing. Not that investing in dollars is the answer, because according to statistics, it wasn't the best of investments to put one's money in.
Still, a net wage of TL 40 million at this time last year was worth about $540, today it is worth around $290 and headed downward. The legal minimum net wage today is TL 11,422,000 or something around $85.You certainly wouldn't have to even report your taxes in a developed country.
Are you a Turkish family of four? Then the latest report from Turk-Is says that a family of that size is spending nearly TL 30,000,000 just for their food bill. Last year at the same time the amount being spent on food came to just over TL 11 million, and in one year it has more than doubled. And according to the same report the increase has been 6.8 percent in just one month's time.
The Refahyol government, on the other hand, is crowing about how it has been raising the amount of money which it is giving to civil service retirees. The lowest amount for a retiree is more than TL 22.5 million, and the highest payout is nearly TL 36 million. Rent and other necessities are not included in the figures.Price increases are the best gauge
The price of fuel oil has gone up again and so has that of tube gas. That means another round of price increases. In any case those people who use electricity, water and natural gas, in Istanbul, at least, have had invoices delivered on their doorsteps -- would you believe even on a Sunday? Of course, Turks don't have a sense of making a budget and sticking to it, as happens in some Western countries. You can understand that when a parent asks what he should do in order to make his children conscious of the value of money. There's no concept of a regular allowance to cover necessary expenses, such as for buses to school or lunches and chores if the child wants to buy a candy bar or go to a movie.
How can you budget when a company only "remembers" some of the things they haven't charged you with earlier and puts them on the bill after the unit price has gone up? How can you budget when your employer, if it's the government, promises you an increase and then doesn't have the cash to cover its promise at the time it said it would?
And how can you budget when you have an annual inflation rate which is somewhere around 70 percent but almost always ten percentage points higher in Istanbul? The rollover effect
Increases in fuel prices, electricity, not even to mention transport costs and labor have become excuses to increase prices whether justified or not. As the Turkish lira loses against the dollar, this too has become the justification for increasing prices.
The most recent price increase, which was predicted for after the Sacrifice Holiday and even before the latest increases in fuel oil were announced, is that for bread.
Bread is a staple of the Turkish table. If nothing else, there is bread. Even though you don't order bread in a restaurant or even touch a morsel, you get charged for it. Have you noticed that people still leave bits and pieces of bread on the tops of walls or on window sills which can be reached from the street? Bread is practically sacred in Turkey. You don't throw it away. You try to leave it where someone will have the benefit of it.
So now the price is expected to go up to TL 25,000.In 1991 the price of 320 grams of bread was TL 1,200.Today the price of 225 grams is TL 20,000 and tomorrow TL 25,000 -- a 25 percent increase. Plans have already been laid by the bread bakers and there are some who would suggest that the increase is being made in the wake of the 30 percent increase in wages being given to civil service employees.
The wheat growers are blamed for higher prices, the yeast suppliers as well and those who make the bags the flour is brought in. The bread bakers would like to refer to the Competition Council, but since there has yet to be fully established, there is no possibility of their arriving at a result from that direction.
Lower the grammage and raise the price. The bread lines at the municipality's bread outlets will grow for a time as long as there are people who have nothing less to do with their time but stand in line and wait.
The vociferous outcry brings the municipality out to ensure the price is lowered, and then when the voices have quieted, the price goes up.
An advisor and contributor to one of the think-tanks which have proliferated around the world said that the best government, in fact is that which can satisfy the most people.
Does that mean lower, unsubsidized bread for all?
Kursat Yilmaz, a prisoner who had escaped from a hospital where he was undergoing medical treatment, was captured in Antalya. He is currently facing prosecution in connection with the murder of the mayor of Kusadasi. The capture took place after a joint operation between the gendarmerie and the police force.According to Antalya Mayor Husnu Tuglu, "Yilmaz and his friend were caught in a house in Kas, and they have been handed over to the Istanbul police. The police also confiscated a certain amount of foreign currency and two handguns."CHARGED
The Istanbul state security court has charged Sanar Yurdatapan, a top musician and human rights activist, with giving false passports to two former Kurdish guerrillas.
Police detained him at Istanbul airport on his return from Germany with two false passports prepared for former Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) members.
"My brother Sanar Yurdatapan was arrested on April 22, but I was not told on what charge," Onur Yurdatapan said.
Sanar Yurdatapan, one of the country's most famous popular music composers, is a human rights activist who has often criticised the treatment of Turkey's Kurdish minority.DEMOCRAT
Chief of General Staff Gen. Ismail Hakki Karadayi said on his return from Brussels where he attended the Military Committee meetings of NATO and met with his Greek counterpart, that the army would keep out of politics despite its public opposition to the policies of the Islamist-led government.
Karadayi said the army -- which has ousted three civilian governments since 1960 -- was watching political developments closely and demanded that Parliament act to resolve the political deadlock gripping Ankara.
He said, "The Turkish armed forces exist completely outside politics and they will stay outside."
"There are some developments in our country against the basic constitutional properties of our republic to which our people and our armed forces are extremely sensitive," he said.
"Nobody can remain insensible and impartial in the face of this. But the place to resolve this is Parliament. We believe that everything can and should be solved under that roof," he stressed.RESIGNED
Industry Minister Yalim Erez and Health Minister Yildirim Aktuna tendered their resignations last weekend, thus ending weeks of speculation after making remarks critical of the True Path Party (DYP)-Welfare Party (RP) coalition.
The resignation of the two ministers from the DYP wing of the coalition came only hours before the National Security Council (MGK) was due to hold a meeting billed by the media for days as "critical."
Commenting on the resignations, DYP leader and Deputy Prime Minister Tansu Ciller maintained that she had personally asked the two ministers to give up their posts.
"I asked them to resign. Ministers do not have a say in whether governments come or go," Ciller told reporters.
She was responding to previous remarks by Erez and Aktuna that the DYP should pull out of its coalition partnership with the pro-Islamic RP. Aktuna categorically denied that he quit after he was asked by Ciller to step down.SUMMIT
The presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia met in Istanbul Monday on the sideline of a business meeting of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) countries which itself has turned into a summit of the BSEC region.
The meeting, which was arranged by President Suleyman Demirel, lasted 45 minutes. Neither of the two leaders made a statement, while the Turkish president said Turkey is after peace not only in the Balkans or the Middle East, but in the Caucasus as well.
The Turkish president attended only the first five minutes of the Azerbaijan-Armenia summit.
"It is easy to disrupt peace. However, it's very difficult to reestablish peace once it is disrupted," Demirel said, stressing that Ankara wanted Azerbaijan and Armenia to settle its disputes through dialogue.JAILED
The Ankara State Security Court sentenced more than 100 Islamist sect members to three years in prison on Wednesday for challenging the official secularist order, Judge Orhan Karadeniz said.
The Islamists, members of the esoteric Aczmendi sect, had been charged with forming an illegal group, insulting Turkey's secularist founder Kemal Ataturk and breaking a ban on Islamic dress.
The Fortnight in Perspective
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