Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II formally welcomed Turkish President Abdullah Gül and his wife, Hayrünnisa, to London Monday at a ceremony that took place near Buckingham PalaceNovember 26, 2011
Gülen said that if Turkey wanted to bring humanitarian aid to Gaza, the Turkish government should have coordinated this with the Israeli authorities, because “one must not go against authority.”
What does this mean? Although both Gülen and the current Turkish Islamist government agree on many Islamic subjects, they disagree on very basic issues:
President Gül, Foreign Minister Davutoğlu, and to some extent Prime Minister Erdoğan, have views very similar to those of the Arab-Oriented Muslim Brotherhood; so it is therefore not surprising that many Arabs, as a result of the Flotilla crisis, are now looking toward Turkey as their leader. Strange as this may seem, they see Prime Minister Erdoğan’s Flotilla Incident as standing up for the Arabs as no other Arab leader has done. (For more Arab reactions to the Flotilla Crisis, See, http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/4383.htm).
Gülen, on the other hand, is Turkish and Turkic-Oriented. Gülen has huge amounts of funds at his disposal; he finances schools throughout the Turkic lands of Central Asia and the Caucasus, as well as Europe and the U.S.. These schools teach a “Turkish/Turkic-oriented Islam,” which has little concern for the Arab world. It is therefore obvious why so many ultra-nationalist Turks — some of whom want a union of all Turks from Northwestern China to the Adriatic Sea — support Gülen. These Turks have little interest in the Arabs; they see the Flotilla crisis as actually hurting the interests of the Turks.
There are many forces in play in Turkey that could undermine the Arabist government as of late.
The Reaction of the Turkish Military
Early last week, there was an attack on a Turkish naval installation in the port of Iskenderun on Turkey’s southern coast. Erdoğan blamed this attack on the PKK (a Kurdish terrorist organization), and insinuated that Israel was behind this attack. The military launched an investigation of the attack, and issued a statement on Friday, June 20, that there had been no foreign involvement whatever in that incident.
What happened here, and what does this tell us about the flotilla crisis and internal Turkish politics?
Until this announcement, the Turkish military had been notably silent about the flotilla incident. The reason for the silence was that they knew the government was looking for a scapegoat to blame for the negative fallout from the flotilla crisis — and that the military would be the obvious group to blame.
The public, however, interpreted the military’s silence as disapproval of the government’s having created the crisis.
By issuing the statement that there had been no foreign involvement, the military showed it felt confident that the Turkish public was holding Erdoğan, Davutoğlu, and their cronies responsible for the flotilla blunder: The military was indirectly accusing the government of lying to the people about the facts.
The military reaction is just one more indication that the Turkish public feels that its governmental leaders are heading Turkey down a dangerous path. Further, given Turkish culture, it is also highly unlikely that the military would have issued such a statement if it thought that the government had the support of the people.
Ironically the only thing that can stop totalitarian rule in Turkey is their military because Democracy brings Theocracy and Sharia law. Why do these people hate the freedom so much that they depend on men with guns to give them this? There is little reason to see this situation getting better. They Turkish people need to experience the suffering that the Persian people do before they decide that their backwards religion can not dictate their government. Sometimes a culture just has to learn the hard way. If I were Europe I would be very concerned about running pipelines through this territory. It is in the E.U.’s interest to repair any bad feelings from the Balkans and cozy up to Russia.
“Taraf” broke the Balyoz conspiracy theory on Jan. 22, 2010.
Turkey’s military has long been both the state’s most trusted institution and the guarantor of Atatürk’s legacy, especially his laicism. Devotion to the founder is not some dry abstraction but a very real and central part of a Turkish officer’s life; as journalist Mehmet Ali Birand has documented, cadet-officers hardly go an hour without hearing Atatürk’s name invoked.
On four occasions between 1960 and 1997, the military intervened to repair a political process gone awry. On the last of these occasions, it forced the Islamist government of Necmettin Erbakan out of power. Chastened by this experience, some of Erbakan’s staff re-organized themselves as the more cautious Justice and Development Party (AKP). In Turkey’s decisive election of 2002, they surged ahead of discredited and fragmented centrist parties with a plurality of 34 percent of the popular vote.
Parliamentary rules then transformed that plurality into a 66 percent supermajority of assembly seats and a rare case of single-party rule. Not only did the AKP skillfully take advantage of its opportunity to lay the foundations of an Islamic order but no other party or leader emerged to challenge it. As a result, the AKP increased its portion of the vote in the 2007 elections to a resounding 47 percent, with control over 62 percent of parliamentary seats.
Repeated AKP electoral successes encouraged it to drop its earlier caution and to hasten moving the country toward its dream of an Islamic Republic of Turkey. The party placed partisans in the presidency and the judiciary while seizing increased control of the educational, business, media, and other leading institutions. It even challenged the secularists’ hold over what Turks call the “deep state” – the non-elected institutions of the intelligence agencies, security services, and the judiciary. Only the military, ultimate arbiter of the country’s direction, remained beyond AKP control.
Several factors then prompted the AKP to confront the military: European Union accession demands for civilian control over the military; a 2008 court case that came close to shutting down the AKP; and the growing assertiveness of its Islamist ally, the Fethullah Gülen Movement. An erosion in AKP popularity (from 47 percent in 2007 to 29 percent now) added a sense of urgency to this confrontation, for it points to the end of one-party AKP rule in the next elections.
Gen. Ibrahim Firtina, a former head of the air force, was questioned in court about a plot to overthrow the government.
The AKP devised an elaborate conspiracy theory in 2007, dubbed Ergenekon, to arrest about two hundred AKP critics, including military officers, under accusation of plotting to overthrow the elected government. The military responded passively, so the AKP raised the stakes on Jan. 22 by concocting a second conspiracy theory, this one termed Balyoz (“Sledgehammer”) and exclusively directed against the military.
The military denied any illegal activities and the chief of general staff, İlker Başbuğ, warned that “Our patience has a limit.” Nonetheless, the government proceeded, starting on Feb. 22, to arrest 67 active and retired military officers, including former heads of the air force and navy. So far, 35 officers have been indicted.
Thus has the AKP thrown down the gauntlet, leaving the military leadership basically with two unattractive options: (1) continue selectively to acquiesce to the AKP and hope that fair elections by 2011 will terminate and reverse this process; or (2) stage a coup d’état, risking voter backlash and increased Islamist electoral strength.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, President Abdullah Gul and Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ met on February 25.
At stake is whether the Ergenekon/Balyoz offensives will succeed in transforming the military from an Atatürkist to a Gülenist institution; or whether the AKP’s blatant deceit and over-reaching will spur secularists to find their voice and their confidence. Ultimately the issue concerns whether Shari’a (Islamic law) rules Turkey or the country returns to secularism.
Turkey’s Islamic importance suggests that the outcome of this crisis has consequences for Muslims everywhere. AKP domination of the military means Islamists control the umma‘s most powerful secular institution, proving that, for the moment, they are unstoppable. But if the military retains its independence, Atatürk’s vision will remain alive in Turkey and offer Muslims worldwide an alternative to the Islamist juggernaut.