THE PRIDE OF THE GURBET: The AKP’s 21st century engagement of the Turkish Diaspora in Germany and Austria as an exportation of domestic strategy


THE PRIDE OF THE GURBET: The AKP’s 21st century engagement of the Turkish Diaspora in Germany and Austria as an exportation of domestic strategy

by Julian Vierlinger

“Loss is a magical preservative. Time stops at the point of severance, and no subsequent impressions muddy the water you have in mind. The house, the garden, the country you have lost remain forever as you remember them. Nostalgia – that most lyrical of feelings – chrystalizes around these images like amber.” - Eva Hoffman


The year 2017 saw a diplomatic fallout between Turkey and the three of the four EU countries which host the largest number of individuals with Turkish origin - Germany, the Netherlands and Austria. The cause of the fracas was the three countries’ effective decision to block Turkish President Erdoğan and other notables of the AKP sphere from campaigning for the April constitutional referendum in Europe - a decision that was met by fierce condemnation from Ankara, and unprecedentedly violent tone of Erdoğan who accused European policy makers of being “Nazis” and threatened that “no EU citizen would walk the streets safely” if the decision would not be reviewed. (Osborne ed. 2017) On a more policy related level, Erdoğan threatened to cancel the conflictual EU-Turkey refugee deal and announced that Turkey might pull back its candidacy for EU membership. (Hacaouglu ed. 2017) The refusal of German, Dutch and Austrian policy makers to allow Erdoğan and his AKP to gather their supporters on EU soil has its roots in recent history - that is, Erdoğan’s various speeches in Austria and Germany between 2010 and 2014, which caused considerable uproar at the time, and first put the question of the validity of letting foreign politicians address their diaspora on the table. The central argument against AKP rallies in Europe then and are is is the issue of integration of the Turkish diaspora, and the negative effect on integration that Erdoğan’s discourses of belonging to the diaspora arguably have.

The issue can perhaps be most accurately described by the difference in terminology used to describe people of Turkish origin living in Europe: While in academic contexts they are accurately described as a diaspora, the term is hardly used in Turkish contexts, where they are described as ‘our citizens abroad’ - which is sometimes even applied both to Turks that have been naturalised in their host countries and carry dual nationality, and the ones that are only residents. In German, citizens of Turkish origin are called citizens ‘mit Migrationshintergrund’ (lit.: ‘with a background of migration’), which is however only applied to carriers of German/Austrian nationality. The conflict is therefore the question of ultimate belonging: are the Euro-Turks (as this paper will refer to them) Turks living in Europe or Europeans with Turkish roots?

It is a question highly charged with political energy, and the answer expected from the Euro-Turks by the Turkish government is the opposite of the one that the broader European public opinion - and European leaders - expect and proclaim. While the former insists on Turkey (and therefore theTurkish government being the primary reference of identity and guardian of the Euro-

Turks, the latest developments in Europe have shown that this claim is deemed threatening to continental stability, and that the Euro-Turks’ integration necessitates that their loyalty belong primarily to their host countries. The current shift in Turkish politics, i.e. the politics of the AKP, which is in European public opinion regarded as a shift away from democracy, further dramatizes the issue - as it includes a strong rapprochement of the ‘homeland’ to its diaspora. Germany and Austria are the main battlefields in this war over identification due to firstly the great number of Euro-Turks the two countries host, the genesis of said diaspora and the culture specific expectation towards immigration in the two countries.

This paper will firstly draw a portrait of the Turkish diaspora in those two countries, move on to explore the evolution of Turkish transnationalism over time and lastly explore the recent involvement of Erdoğan’s AKP in domestic politics in Austria and Germany with a focus on the phenomenon of Turkish funded parties in domestic elections, and Turkish funded organizations. It will be argued that the current Turkish government has a sincere interest in keeping the Euro-Turks’ loyalty to Turkey while at the same time keeping them in Europe; and that, conversely, this undertaking falls on fertile ground in the minds of the majority of Euro-Turks. Furthermore, this paper will advance that not only the role of the diaspora is changing, but also Turkey’s way of approaching its ‘citizens abroad’ has been characterised by a new strategy and a new set of goals that goes along with a redefinition of the very concept of integration - which is the ultimate cause of the above mentioned diplomatic conflicts between Turkey and many European nations. A red line spanning over this analysis will be the notion that the reason AKP’s success in Europe is essentially the exportation of its domestic strategy to the diaspora - which is due to the similarity between the present day majority diaspora’s situation in Europe, and the ‘Black Turks’ in pre-AKP Turkey.



Genesis of a diaspora

The first and most significant wave of Turkish immigration into Germany and Austria took place in the sixties, when the efforts of rebuilding the two war torn countries had finally begun to bear fruit: the newly re-developed secondary sector of the two economies was booming, but its demand for cheap labor could not be met by the traditional working class - and the primary sectors of the two countries could not continue to lose manpower to the industry. (Schmiderer 2008: 18 and Toktas 2012: 5) Turkey, at the same time, saw a growing unemployment rate - and the exportation of this ‘surplus labor’ was deemed necessary as a means to continued economical development in the five year plan of 1962-1967, both to keep the unemployment rate stable (ever since 1960, the unemployment rate was almost constantly held between 9% and 15%) and to profit from remittances. (Toktas 2012: 7) In 1961 Germany and Turkey signed a labor agreement, in 1964 Austria followed - and until 1966 Turkey had signed social security agreements with both countries. The scope of this labor migration was supposed to be limited, but eventually - as the industry showed an interest in keeping their trained workforce - this migration became more permanent, with family reunification cases increasing steadily. In 1975, this institutionalized mass immigration was stopped - yet, due to high birthrates, the Turkish populations in Germany and Austria nearly doubled; and growing numbers of these former guest workers were naturalized. In the troublesome years after the 1980 coup d’etat, Turkish migration to Germany and Austria surged again - this time in form of refugees and asylum seekers. Between 1985 and the early two thousands, immigration and returns to Turkey were almost balanced (even if a slight leaning towards immigration could be observed due to the conflicts in kurdish majority areas) - yet high birth rates of Euro-Turks (the average Turkish woman in Germany and Austria mothers around 3 children) led to the astonishing number of around 2,998 Million ethnic Turks living in Germany by 2013, and between 250.000 to 400.000 ethnic Turks in Austria by 2010. (Toktas 2012: 9, Potkanski 2010: 4, Kentel and Kaya 2004: 11 and BAMF 2011, 2012, 2013) In both cases, about half of these ethnic Turks still carry Turkish passports.

    It has been argued that recently, the number of Turks living in Germany and Austria is in decline (Sirkeci et al. 2012: 36) - however, German newspapers have recently noted that the number of Turkish asylum seekers in German is on the rise in the aftermath of the failed coup attempt 2016.

An important observation about Austria and Germany’s Euro-Turks is that their original roots lie mostly in the rural areas of Anatolia as these areas were subject to significantly higher rates of emigration than the urban areas of Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir. In the years right after the labor agreements, Turkish guest workers were mostly skilled personnel from the more developed areas of the country - yet in the latter part of the sixties this changed drastically, due to the saturation of the industry with skilled labor, and the massive increases of unemployment in the rural areas of Turkey. The same counts for the migratory movements taking between 1975 and today, as unemployment today is still relatively higher in the rural areas than the urban ones, and due to the fact that the post 1980 violence - including violence resulting from the Kurdish question - was largely focused on the eastern regions of the country. (Kentel and Kaya 2004: 10)

    Therefore, and to conclude on this section, we shall state that situating the roots of the Turkish diaspora in Europe as what is generally referred to as ‘black Turks’ - as opposed to ‘white Turks’ - is somewhat telling of majority attitudes towards identity and core values. (Jabbour 2017)


Attitudes and Identity

    A number of government issued studies have been published recently on the attitudes of ethnic Turks in Germany and Austria, whose results are rather striking. The three primary spheres of interest of said studies were perceptions of discrimination, identification with Turkey and the host country and general attitudes towards integration and cultural assimilation. In other words, they revolved around the central question of identity.


    According to the comprehensive study by Kentel and Kaya (2004), 36,6% of the sample set of Ethnic Turks in Germany (both naturalized and non naturalized) agreed with the statement ‘I am Turkish’, 49,9% with the statement ‘I am first Turkish then European’ and only 9,2% with the statement ‘I am first European then Turkish’. Furthermore did 48% of the sample set state that they feel closer to Turkey than Germany, while only 26,9% stated to feel equally close to both. 22% of the sample set stated they felt closer to Germany than to Turkey - and a negligible 2,6% that they felt equally far from both. We can extrapolate that, at least in 2004, there was a slight divergence between ethnic identification and national identification/identification with the Turkish state - while the former was relatively solid ‘Turkish’, the latter seems more ambiguous. The findings furthermore suggest that levels of interest (and identification) with domestic Turkish politics were relatively low in 2004: 75% of the sample set stated that they had not voted in Turkish domestic


elections ever since settling in Germany, and roughly 60% stated that they are either not at all, rather not or slightly interested in Turkish politics. It is to be stated here that in 2004, the AKP had been majority in the Turkish parliament years - with Erdoğan holding the post of prime minister - for only 2 years. Yet, the study suggests already that in 2004 32% of the sample set identified mostly with AKP, followed by 29% who identified with no party in Turkish politics. The findings showed furthermore that there is a relatively equal lack of interest in local German politics. Another important finding is the high identification with Islam and Muslim religious identity of Euro-Turks - especially in the lower spectrum of the socio-economic scale.

    A 2012 working paper on the status of political engagement commissioned by the German Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) supported above findings, and concluded inter alium that only about a third of Turks showed an interest in German politics, with even less affiliating with a party - while interest in Turkish domestic politics was much higher ranked. (Müssig & Worbs 2012: 5-6)

    In 2010, the Austrian Migrationsfonds (ÖIF) published a dossier on the attitudes of ethnic Turks in Austria that presented very similar findings: 70% of ethnic Turks identified more with Turkey than Austria. Furthermore, an interesting focus of the study was the role of the media and language in ‘euro-Turkish’ dynamics: only 58% of ethnic Turks stated that their German was fluent or native, and while 76% of the sample set watched Turkish television every day, only 30% watched Austrian television on a regular basis. (Potkanski 2010: 1-14)

    Another point where German and Austrian data converges is education and employment: in Austria, 58% of ethnic Turks did not engage in further education after finishing obligatory schooling, and the unemployment rate of ethnic Turks was consistently double the Austrian equivalent. In Germany, the figures are similar - reaching frightening peaks in the years before 2009, when a study revealed that in the Berlin region where 70% of Turks do not have a degree surpassing obligatory schooling, and 42% unemployment of ethnic Turks. (DIE ZEIT January 2009, Potkanski 2010: 1-14)

    In 2009, a German study noted that 82% of ethnic Turks in Germany felt discriminated (on different levels), and suggested that 42% of them would return to Turkey when the context would allow it. This percentage was even higher with Euro-Turks of the second generation. (Salzer 2009)

Similar findings were presented in a 2010 study by the Austrian ministry for integration - which noted the massive difference in levels of identification with Austria between immigrants of Turkis origin and immigrants of ex-Yugoslavian (72% identified with Austria first) and Polish origin (63% identified with Austria first). (Pöll ed. 2010)

    To conclude on this section, and to summarize the recent findings on the Euro-Turks living in Germany and Austria, we shall stretch four points. Firstly, ethnic Turks showed high levels of identification with their ‘Turkishness’, and slightly lower levels of identification with the state of Turkey and Turkish politics. Conversely, their identification with their host countries is significantly lower, going along with political participation in the host countries. Secondly, there is a drastic difference between employment and education levels of Austrian and German nationals when compared to ethnic Turks (naturalized or not). Thirdly, the issue of language is prevalent. Fourthly, Euro-Turks in both Austria and Germany feel relatively more discriminated against than minorities comparable in size.


    Furthermore, we shall emphasize that Kentel and Kaya’s findings show a clear link between identification with the host countries, political participation in the host countries and identification with religious identity with social class of ethnic Turks in Germany. While the (numerically inferior) ‘upper’ class tends to identify more strongly with Germany and German politics, the ‘lower’ class identifies more with their Turkishness - yet not necessarily with Turkish politics - and Islam. While similar data is not available in the Austrian case, we could assume that findings in Austria would be similar. What is interesting to extrapolate here is that the dynamics in Germany and Austria between the social classes is somewhat similar to ‘pre-Anatolian tiger’ Turkey: while the upper Kemalist classes identified strongly with the Turkish state and engaged in politics while largely disregarding the Turkish Islamic heritage, the lower classes were disenfranchised and were only ‘heard’ with the wake of AKP Islamist politics as their primary reference of identity was Islam (Jabbour 2017). Transposed to Germany and Austria, this observation holds. In other words, the ‘White Turk’ - ‘Black Turk’ divide can to some extent be transposed to Austria and Germany.



The Role of Islam as perceived Obstacle of Integration

    With the wake of right wing populism in Germany and Austria, the issue of integration has been playing a central role in the political theatre. While the focus on Turkish immigration in Germany is easily explained by the fact that ethnic Turks make up for the highest percentage of ‘foreigners’ in the country, the Austrian case is a little more complex (yet perhaps a little more telling) as the largest group of residents with foreign origin in the country are immigrants from ex-Yugoslavia. The 2008 legislative election campaign of the Austrian extreme right Freedom Party (FPÖ) featured a poster depicting a mosque and the - until now, heavily controversial - line “Wien darf nicht Istanbul werden” (literally “Vienna must not become Istanbul”). In 2012, the similar posters portrayed the (linguistically rather poorly endowed) rhyme “Abendland in Christenhand” (literally, “The Occident in Christian hands”) - and images of the party’s prime candidate H.C. Strache waving a wooden cross during a speech in dim light went around the world. In general, it is evident that the anti-immigration discourse of the FPÖ has in essence always been an anti-Islam discourse - and given the fact that ethnic Turks are the by far largest Muslim minority in Austria, this anti-Islam discourse is inherently linked to Austria’s population of Turkish origin. The same counts for the German right wing, epitomized in the recent surge of the AfD (far right “Alternative for Germany”) and PEGIDA (“Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the Occident”) whose discourses are even more aggressive. The ‘integration issue’ concerning residents of Turkish origin, as treated by the German and Austrian far right wing, is therefore based on two qualities of ethnic Turks that are inseparable from each other: Islam and ‘Turkishness’. While language remains another core issue in the topic of integration, its relative weight in comparison to the perceived otherness of Islam seems inferior - especially when put into correlation with the relative ease that Yugoslavian migrants were integrated into Austrian societies. A well integrated immigrant in Germany and Austria is therefore not only someone who is fluent in the German language, but someone whose loyalty lies with the state, and not with something that is perceived to be in conflict with the authority of the state - be it another state or Islam. To return on the specificity of Austria: for migrants of Yugoslavian origin, neither another state nor Islam (with the exception of Bosnia) causes such a direct conflict of loyalty. In the Turkish case, both apply. A well integrated Turk, in far right wing discourse, would therefore be an Austrian or German passport bearing, secularised, German speaking citizen who cut his ties to the homeland.


In search of a definition of ‘successful integration’

    Quoting the far right as a sole reference for what a ‘well integrated Turk’ resembles to in Austrian and German public opinion is doubtlessly a fallacy. In general, whoever assumes that there is any form of consensus in the German or Austrian public sphere on what successful integration looks like is most definitely in error. Integration is above all about perception: the feeling of acceptance on the side of the migrant, and a feeling of minimized differences with the migrant from the side of the host country national. And indeed, above mentioned surveys, together with the surging right wing’s targeting of the Turkish population suggests that there is both a lacking feeling of acceptance from the side of the majority Euro-Turks, and a great feeling of otherness - recently linked to the abstract concept of the ‘Islamic threat’ - from large parts of the Austrian and German populations. To borrow from Jacques Lacan’s concept of the ‘stade de miroir’, one could argue that the radical refusal of the extreme right to accept ethnic Turks in the centre of the Austrian and German societies reinforces both the Muslim and the Turkish identity in Euro-Turks as in fact being in direct conflict with ‘German-ness’ or ‘Austrian-ness’ - this causal relationship, however, is not easily established.

    Kentel and Kaya, treat their findings as proof that the Islamic identification of Euro-Turks is in essence a reaction to diasporic existence: “The stress on religion is usually something adopted from parental culture as part of negotiation with the majority society. The way the Euro- Turks, especially German-Turks, employ religion as a source of identity is quite distant from being essentialist.” (Kentel and Kaya 2004: 60) They note that 48% of their subjects stated that their religious feelings became stronger upon arrival in Germany, while 39% remained the same. Furthermore, they argue that the weaker the direct memory of the homeland becomes - or in case of second and third generations, memory has disappeared completely - the more the notion of Turkey as the Islamic homeland as compared to Christian Europe leads to increased levels of Islamic identification, as it is considered as a core quality of ‘Turkishness'. (Kentel and Kaya 2004: 60-67)

    What is often in German and Austrian leftist discourse referred to as ‘role models of integration’ (‘Musterintegration’) are in fact those Euro-Turks that are not only identifying strongly with Germany or Austria, but those that have reached socio-economic success - which, as we can see in the studies cited above - is linked to lower identification levels with ‘Turkishness’ and therewith Islam.

    There are, however, two facts to consider: firstly, the religiosity of ethnic Turks in Austria and Germany is - even if ‘rooted’ in the genesis of the diaspora (as argued above) - at high levels, much higher as average Austrian or German identification with Christendom. Secondly, the mean ethnic Turk in Austria and Germany is statistically poorer than the mean statistical ethnic Austrian or German - whatever the causality may be. (Brettfeld & Wetzels 2007: 109-147


The image of the ‘Mustermigration’ demands from the Euro-Turk to drop his Turkishness in return for economic success. Turkish politics almost welcomed this trade-off - until 2002, when the AKP won parliamentary elections.




A short History of Turkish Transnationalism

    As outlined in the section on the genesis of the diaspora, the Turkish labor migration to Germany and Austria was - in the beginning - not at all imagined to be permanent. Yet, the dynamic of employers wanting to hold on to trained workers in interplay with family reunifications lead to a type specific form of Turkish transnationalism that is characterized by a community divided between two worlds: an almost poetic imagination of the homeland that is kept alive by vacations and family visits in Turkey and an at times difficult reality in the host country, last but not least due to the hostility of parts of the local populations. (Sirkeci et al. 2012: 31-40)

    Especially the role of the high consumption of Turkish media (especially television and online content - as outlined in part one) that is specifically aimed at the diaspora reinforces this dynamic of the colorful homeland versus a grey Germany or Austria, or in fact any other country with a significant Turkish population. (Karanfil 2009: 887-889)

    The gap between these two worlds, and the intensity of identification with the one or the other, as stated above, depends immensely on the socio economic status of the migrant. Throughout the second half of the 20th century, the economic value of staying in Europe (due to higher income levels and social security) arguably outgunned the implementation to the ver much present will to return ‘home’. There was also no incentive given by the various Turkish governments to make its diaspora return as the need to stabilize unemployment remained necessary (which it does well until today), and because of the benefit of direct and indirect remittances. Turkish governments had put various institutions in place to profit from the migrants’ labor abroad, most notably the famous worker stocks which were in essence investments in underdeveloped areas with government liability. The indirect path of remittances, that is direct transactions between family members of either cash or valuables, had a positive economic impact on Turkish economy as well. (Toktas 2012: 13-19)

    In 1982, the role of the diaspora gained a political dimension, when the amendment of the constitution officially legalized dual citizenship, and thereby - to some extent - legalised transnationalism. This shift of the diaspora’s role from a largely economical one to a political one has to be put into context with opening of the Turkish economy in the mid 80ies and Turkey’s bid to EU membership of 1987. 1984 saw the creation of a Turkish sponsored Muslim tent-organization DITIB (in essence the diaspora are of the Diyanet Isleri Baskanligi), whose mission was in essence to unify and represent the (Turkish) Muslim community in German politics and societal discourse, and to organize Islamic charity missions. A similar organization called ATIB was shortly after founded in Austria. This policy of rapprochement towards Turkey’s ‘citizens abroad’, has been described as a form of utilization of the diaspora as a foreign policy tool: a well integrated diaspora that is legally rooted in both Turkey and Europe should function as a form of lobbying group for EU membership. (Bilgili & Siegel 2013)

    Both the force of both the political and economical role of the diaspora is therefore linked to the level of integration into the host society - a higher level of integration leads to better positioning on the socio-economic scale and therefore to a higher economical value of the migrant to the homeland, and on the political level, to a more effective form of ‘public diplomacy’. In other words, the more integrated, the more ‘useful’ the migrant is to Turkish politics.

    With the 2002 victory of the AKP in parliamentary elections, and the rise of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the political role of the diaspora would increase - yet, both the way to engage the political force of the diaspora, and its objective would change. Most notably, the definition of how an ethnic Turk was supposed to integrate into the European sphere, and thereby the state-supported model type Euro-Turk had changed from the ‘Turkish ambassador of dual nationality’ to something entirely different; and in light of the findings presented in the aforementioned studies on Euro-Turk’s attitudes, this redefinition would fall on fertile grounds.


The AKP and the Euro-Turks: the role of the UETD

    The AKP’s strategy in Germany and Austria was very similar to the way it approached Turkish citizens in the homeland: it answered the needs of the disenfranchised, firstly by acknowledging their existence and giving them a voice in domestic politics. In 2004, it founded the Union of European-Turkish Democrats as a form of diaspora arm of the party. The Union would act as a lobbying or interest group, organized events and rallies and promoted identification with AKP Turkey in the ranks of the Euro-Turks. In 2008, it facilitated the first ever speech of prime minister

Erdoğan in front of roughly 17.000 members of the diaspora - an event that was, although considered a ‘private visit’, protected by police and single largest political rally for a foreign politician ever since the Kennedy visit after the fall of the Berlin wall. (Spiegel Online - 11/02/2009) Thereon, the UETD would be a central organ in organizing rallies defending AKP policy - from anti-PKK demonstrations to counter-demonstrations against the Gezi Park protests. By today, the UETD is the by far largest political organization of Euro-Turks. The first notable step of AKP policy towards the diaspora was the implementation of voting in Turkish diplomatic offices outside of the country in 2014, which expanded the election campaigning to the diaspora - and increased the importance of the now Europe-wide active UETD.


Support of Muslim Communities

    The aforementioned DITIB was created as an independent organization, has however since its creation had strong ties to the Turkish regime, due to its functioning - which has not changed drastically ever since its creation. The Imams it procures to its mosques and houses of prayer go to Germany for 5 years, are trained and chosen by the Diyanet Isleri Baskanligi in Ankara, and paid by the Turkish state; which in essence makes them functionaries of the state. The powerful councils on top of the structure include high functionaries from the Turkish government, and large parts of the organizations funds are provided by the Turkish state. (Süddeutsche Zeitung 01/08/2016)

    At the time of its creation, it was indeed envisioned as exporting the Kemalist doctrine of statal Islam incorporated by the Diyanet Isleri Baskanligi to the diaspora; with the rise of the AKP however, its discourse was aligned with party doctrine, and its funding increased - as visible in the expansion of its functions. Since 2002, the DITIB has turned into a form of waqf, acquiring properties in Germany and engaging in the construction of mosques of sometimes gigantic dimensions, such as the DITIB Zentralmoschee (central mosque) in Köln whose construction was started in 2009 and is supposed to be able to give space to up to 1200 believers featuring minarets of 55m in height.

    In 2017, the DITIB was accused of “spying” for the AKP - i.e., identifying members of the Gülen movement. The subject was heatedly discussed, until the DITIB unprecedentedly admitted the act. Yet, what is undisputed is that DITIB related mosques and religious associations have ever since the AKP’s rise to power actively promoted AKP discourse and condemned its enemies. DITIB statements concerning issues ranging from the Gezi Park protests, to German parliamentary recognition of the genocide and last but not least the failed coup d’etat have been in defense of AKP party line which has earned the organization heavy criticism at times from German media and politics. In light of the recent diplomatic fracas, the role of the DITIB - and the cooperation of the German state with it - has been subject of debate, to the point where a parliamentary investigation has been launched into AKP influence on the organization. Results, however, are expected to be published only at the end of 2017. (Die Zeit 12/01/2017)
 The Austrian ATIB in turn keeps a much lower profile.

    Another organization - this time far from statal - that has in the past come under heavy fire from the German and Austrian public is the international Millî Görüş movement’s Germany branch IMGM, who holds around 30 associations in Austria as well. Its mosques have hosted sermons of Imam’s considered radical by the German Verfassungsschutz, who has been investigating the movement in 2009. (BvVS Memento 01/07/2009: 228) Although the Millî Görüş is more aligned to the Saadet Partisi than to the AKP, the AKP still holds part of the organization - due to the common ‘father figure’ of Erbakan. The Islamist discourse entertained in IMGM mosques has been described as ferociously defending Erdoğan’s policies on religious grounds. (Vielhaber 2013)


    The AKP’s support for religious organizations in Europe is rooted in the party’s neo-Islamist ideology. In Erdoğan’s discourse Islam is used as an integral part of Turkishness and legitimizes AKP policy. In the diaspora, in accordance to the findings of Kentel and Kaya, religiousness has become a central part of Turkish identity as well - and Islamic community-life has taken a central role in matters of auto-identification. By controlling, or at least influencing, the bearers of this community life, the numerous Islamic organizations in Europe, the AKP spreads its political message (that is by itself of an Islamist nature) through the very institutions of Islam. This powerful dynamic might partly explain the massive popularity Erdoğan enjoys under Euro-Turks in Germany and Austria. Once more, the dynamic in the diaspora reminds strikingly of AKP practice in Turkey itself.

AKP sponsored parties in Germany and Austria


    Another dimension of the AKP’s engagement of the Euro-Turks is the 21st century phenomenon of the ‘Immigrant Party’ in European domestic politics - that is, parties or electoral lists that claim to offer an alternative to established national parties for immigrants of all origins. Germany and Austria have seen the formation of such parties and lists on the regional level, and lately on thenational level as well - interestingly, almost all of these parties were to some extent related to the AKP and the Turkish government. Similar developments have lately taken place in the Netherlands and France as well - in the Dutch case, the AKP-friendly immigrant party “DENK” even managed to enter parliament on its first electoral run in March 2017. (RP-online 16/03/2017)

    In Austria, the first instance of party made up primarily of Euro-Turks - and focused on immigrants needs - was formed in 2009 from the already existing structures of a labor union of Turkish-origin workers that was founded in the late nineties in the eastern province on Vorarlberg. The county of Vorarlberg is home to the second largest number of Austro-Turks after Vienna - yet due to its relatively small size, the percentage population of Austro-Turks in higher than in Vienna. The origins of the Turkish-origin population lie deep in the history of the guest worker agreements of the sixties, as the fabric industry (until today the main branch of industry in the county) needed excessive amounts of cheap labor, which was consequently imported from Turkey. The Austro-Turks of Vorarlberg are therefore to a large extent second or third generation immigrants today - and are, in public discourse, to be considered as very well integrated into Vorarlbergian society. Traditionally, the Austro-Turks of Vorarlberg were aligned with the Austrian labor party - the social democrat SPÖ. When the list announced its election run for the county parliament, controversy ensued. In the end, the party ran on a joint list with other smaller scale fractions, which eventually failed to surpass the threshold of 5% with a disappointing result of 1,74% of the votes. Yet, until 2016, the party had reinvented itself and its head Adnan Dinçer - who had been in Austria since his early childhood - announced that the party would from now on run nation-wide for elections. In his program, Dinçer declares the project of Turkish integration in Austria a failure due to the impossibility for Austro-Turks to meet the apparent precondition of assimilation. Integration, for him, would be accepting difference - and granting specific autonomies to Austro-Turks - and argues that there is a specific form of Austrian Islamophobia that manifests itself not only in the populous, but is heavily institutionalized. Therefore, he deems necessary for the government to “stop meddling in Islamic affairs” - i.e., stepping back from monitoring or in general taking in interest in inter-Muslim-community dynamics. He furthermore demands that Austro-Turks who return home should be paid back their contributions to the welfare system, is in favor of a minimum income paid by the state of 1500€ and wants to implement regional voting rights for residents. His party is considered to be financially and logistically supported by the UETD - and therewith, the AKP. Furthermore, in the night of the coup d’etat, Dinçer was one of the organizers of the demonstration in solidarity with Erdoğan in front of the Turkish consulate in Vorarlberg.

Interestingly, Dinçer argues that his party is not a “Turk-Party”, but an Austrian center-right party that is open for all immigrants who hold different opinions than what is demanded in what he calls the ‘integration project’ - and offers them to give them a voice. The party, now calling itself Neue Bewegung für die Zukunft (NBZ) - which translates to ‘New Movement for the Future’ - is planning to run for parliamentary elections in 2018.
(Der Standard 31/10/2016, Kurier 16/01/2017 and NBZ Website/social media)

    A similar party was founded, again in Austria even if this time in the capital Vienna, in 2015 by the Turkish doctor Turgay Taşkıran. Under the name Gemeinsam für Wien (lit.: together for Vienna), the party presented its candidacy to the Viennese municipal elections - which are at the same time the county elections, as Vienna is not only a municipality but a county as well - and missed the 5% threshold with 0,97% of the votes, managed however to enter three of the 23 district parliaments (not surprisingly, the three with the highest number of Austro-Turks). Taşkıran’s discourse is very much comparable to Dinçer’s NBZ: he speaks of the prevalence of ‘Islam Bashing’ in Austria, demands acceptance of difference and vows to reshape the definition of integration. Taşkıran’s link to the AKP is even clearer than the NBZ’s - and has caused considerably more uproar - as he is in fact a former president of the UETD, and was notably one of the organizers of Erdoğan’s 2014 speech in Vienna. His proximity to the AKP has been a hot topic during the Vienna elections, and Taşkıran eventually stated that he was “being pressured to distance himself from Erdoğan” and that he would therefore abstain from claiming financial support from Ankara, and would limit this support to “logistical counseling”. In 2017, he announced that his party would run again in 2018 - this time for the parliamentary elections. Taşkıran, just like Dinçer, stretches that the party is not a Turkish party - but an immigrant party. (Die Presse 22/07/2015, ORF 21/07/2015 and Der Standard 16/10/2016)

    Although the existence of two migrant parties with striking similarities in a small country like Austria seems striking, one needs to consider that Vienna and Vorarlberg are two counties that are separated by nothing less than the entirety of the Austrian Alps. Traditionally, the Turkish communities of Vorarlberg and Vienna have been rather independent from each other. At the moment of the writing of this paper, no news concerning a possible unification was available.

    In Germany, the first notable instance of a AKP-related regional migrant party running for election occurred in 2011 with a move that could most accurately be described by a non-hostile takeover. In the wake of the 2011 Berlin county elections, the AKP cofounder, renowned professor and ex-president of Turkish national TV Nevzat Yazıntaş travelled to Germany and proclaimed that it “was time to join up forces” - and urged the Turkish-origin population of Berlin to vote for the 2009 founded Bündnis für Innovation und Gerechtigkeit-BIG (Union for Innovation and Justice). The party, whose name resembles closely to the Justice and Development Party (AKP), had until then denied any links with the Erdoğan government; yet its founder’s proximity to the UETD was a well known fact. The party only achieved 0,5% of the votes - and was reproached by media and politics for a number of homophobic posters and flyers. (SpiegelOnline 16/09/2011)


    In 2016, the ex-UETD functionary and wealthy self-made businessman Remzi Aru founded the Allianz Deutscher Demokraten (Alliance of German Democrats) - only days after the recognition of the Armenian genocide by the German parliament, on a sunday at exactly at 14:53 o’clock; a combination willingly chosen to refer to the 1453 ottoman taking of Constantinople. Aru was a well known figure in German television, and his sometimes verbally violent attacks on ‘assimilated’ Euro-Turks in the public sphere, his praise for press liberty in Turkey and general embracing of the state of Turkish affairs gave him the reputation of a pro-Erdoğan polemist. Aru announced that his party would run for the September 2017 general elections. (TAZ 24/06/2016)


    The success of all immigrant parties (with the exception of the Dutch case) has so far been marginal - yet, the impact of the sheer existence of said parties has been loud, and resonated in both the Euro-Turk society and European media and politics. It is interesting to note that there is a certain trend of transparency visible: while the chronologically earlier founded migrant parties or party-like structures tended to keep their ties with AKP in the shadow, recently quite the opposite has been the case. Furthermore are three observations noteworthy: firstly, the fact that the main issues these parties address are quite homogenous - i.e. the alleged failure of the assimilationist approach to integration, the rise of Islamophobia and the necessity for more autonomy, for ‘political alternatives’; secondly, the fact that all these parties have been founded by AKP-related Turks but yet proclaim to stand for immigrants of all origins; thridly, the conflictual relationship of these parties’ functionaries with Turkish-origin politicians in established national parties.


    Erdoğan’s wish to integrate the ‘citizens abroad’ in local politics has been very openly expressed in his 2008 speech in cologne, where he stated that he would much like to see Euro-Turks becoming mayors, ministers and parlamentarians. Yet, the refusal of exactly these Euro-Turks (notably the leader of the German green party Cem Özdemir) to affiliate with Erdoğan and the AKP gives rise to the consideration that the AKP has adopted a strategy to try and bring their ‘own’ Euro-Turks into political positions.

    The issue that is prevalent is the dichotomy of the AKP’s ideal-type Euro-Turk, and the real-world successful Euro-Turks that refuse this ideal type, and adhere to the host societies ideal-type integrated Euro-Turk. And indeed, this dichotomy resonates in the speeches held in front of Euro-Turks of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan - which shall be the last section of this analysis.

Erdoğan’s ongoing redefinition of ‘our citizens abroad’

    To understand the AKP’s strategy in approaching the diaspora, an analysis of Erdoğan’s speeches in front of European publics is paramount. Erdoğan’s discourse from his first speech in Germany, that is in 2008 until his statements in the 2017 fallout describe a trend of redefining what his image of the ideal type Euro-Turk is; what is expected from them and what their link to the homeland is - in Erdoğan’s eyes - supposed to resemble to. The 2008 speech in cologne is characterised by an almost rosy tone. The then prime minister commences his discourse by citing the anatolian poet Yunus that roughly translates to


“I did not come to fight /
 my business is love /

The house of the friend, it is the hearts /
 I came, to win over hearts.”


(excerpt from full text of speech published in “Die Welt” on 22th of February 2008)



Erdoğan states that the message of the Turk, wherever he may go, is never war, hatred or conflict - it is love, fraternity, tranquility and a feeling of security. He goes on to outline the history of the ‘Gurbetçiler’ - the ‘Turks in the foreign who want to return home’ as he refers to in the crowd when he does not call them ‘brothers and sisters’; he states that their grand success was to have integrated themselves in the ‘Gurbet’, while having kept their culture, their language, their traditions - and applauds them for it. He furthermore praises the government of Turkey (his government) for its success to have brought an economic upwind to the country, and states that it is a government that will not forget its diaspora. This notion is key; Erdoğan, throughout the speech, conveys an atmosphere of a new Turkey, a new era in which the government of the homeland will treat its ‘gurbetçiler’ differently. A central part of his speech, which is the one part of the speech which would be printed in every second German newspaper and discussed by politics and media alike, is his view on assimilation: The ‘Gurbetçiler’ could not be demanded to tolerate assimilation, for it is a crime against humanity. They must be accepted the way they are. If they are not, it is not their fault - just as much as Turkey and the EU; he outlines that full accession must be the ultimate goal, yet that if it is not achieved it is the decision of the EU - and has nothing to do with Turkey’s policy.
 (full text of speech [German translation] published in “Die Welt” on 22th of February 2008 [translated by Julian Vierlinger])

    Six years later, in 2014, Erdoğan would hold another speech in Cologne - the tone and message does not change significantly, except for a much more clear and straightforward Islamic touch; he commences his discourse by wishing that “Allah’s blessing may be on all of us”. He lauds the ‘Gurbetçiler’ for their patience and congratulates them to their success in Germany. The general theme however of the speech is that of özlem, of missing the ones that are not there. He states that as long as there are Turks abroad, the Gurbet is in the hearts of Turkey as well. The message of the speech is that the nation does not forget, and he is the messenger of this nation. Yet, he states, there are bad individuals in the opposition that do not hear the suffering of the Gurbetçiler. When Erdoğan mentions the German chancellor Merkel, there are whistles and booing from the crowd - which Erdoğan stops by raising his hand, in a gesture of patriarchal authority. He states that Germany and Austria are companions in fate, ever since the indeed fateful cooperation of the Ottoman Empire and the German empire in the wake of the first world war. When he however subtly deals out blows to the opposition or the media, he entertains the whistles and boos with almost prophetic tranquility. The central message of the speech is twofold: the Gurbetçiler are no longer forgotten, the homeland remembers and rewards them; Turkey has changed - and will even more after the success of the elections, for “There is no more Turkey, which is determined by the events of the day, Turkey determines the events of the day!” (video of speech available on UETD site with German subtitles)

    The 2014 campaign brought Erdoğan to Vienna as well, where he continued his discourse in front of around 7000 Austro Turks. The message is similar to the one of cologne: the new Turkey hears its diaspora, the new Turkey protects his diaspora - and both the Austro-Turks and the Austrian government should notice the presence of this new Turkey. Turkey is a chance for the EU, and a necessity for European development, for it is the gateway to the East, to all Muslims wordlwide. Should Europe refuse Turkey, the “fire of the east” will consume Europe - for only

Turkey can contain it. He repeats his demand to the Euro-Turks, this time however even clearer: “You will integrate yourselves, but you will not assimilate yourselves.” Last but not least, he calls all Turks in Europe to make use of their electoral rights - and calls them to vote in the presidential elections.
 (full text available on UETD Austria office website)

    Erdoğan’s way of approaching the diaspora is a mirror of his politics. Inclusion of the disenfranchised by the sheer greatness of his new Turkey, that has found its Islamic heritage: fraternity and progress, power and influence that goes far over the national borders. Erdoğan appeals to the feeling of discrimination, of otherness and declares it a sacred mission that is engrained in the destiny of the Turkish nation. He redefines integration as the embracing of difference, declares total loyalty of Turkey to its diaspora - and impliedly demands cultural and political loyalty in turn. Whoever refuses this loyalty is a traitor of the nation - by extension; the ‘old’ Turkey betrayed its diaspora.


    Erdoğan’s European campaign bore its fruits in the outcome of the presidential election: 70% of Austro-Turks, and 56% of German Turks voted for him, a result that greatly surpasses his success at “home”. Yet, the voter turnout - especially in Austria - left room for improvement. A mere 12% of eligible voters made the move to the ballot boxes in Austria for the 2014 presidentials. However, in the 2015 legislative elections, the turnout was improved drastically: 44% of Austro-Turks eligible to vote voted. In Germany as well, turnout improved in the parliamentary election.
 (Die Presse 02/11/2015, Die Presse 08/06/2015, Tiroler Tageszeitung 30/10/2015)



    Voter turnout seems to be the biggest issue in Erdoğan’s European efforts. The countermeasures taken against his campaigning by European governments are grand impeachment to changing this status quo. Yet, the countermeasures - i.e. banning AKP functionaries from speaking in front of Euro-Turkish crowds - have opened another arsenal for Erdoğan in his quest for Euro-Turkish hearts: the notion of victimization. His aggressive discourse against European leaders’ decision linked with the subtle overtones of Islamophobia and anti-Turkish conspiracy might fit into the logic of the constitutional referendum that Turks will decide over in April. The grand question is, if the domestic Turkish reasoning of a stronger leader, a stronger president to defend Turkey’s interest will be transposable to diaspora logic. For Erdoğan’s ideal type Euro-Turk, this reasoning is key.

The objectives of AKP diaspora politics.


    The objectives pursued by the AKP’s engagement of the diaspora are arguably multiple. Firstly, with the upcoming electoral referendum and the close call it will be (, a platform that cross-calculates opposition and regime surveys speaks of a slight lead of NO over YES, with 52,1% against 47,9%) makes it an electoral necessity to profit from the electoral potential of the diaspora; especially in light of the fact that Germany, for example, is considered the 4th largest electoral district of Turkey after Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir.
 ( and Diemand ed. 2017)

    Secondly, the aforementioned political function of the diaspora in the form of public diplomacy has been argued to be an essential part of what has been described as the ‘Neo-Ottomanism’ of Erdoğan’s Turkey. Following this logic, the establishment of a form of AKP-Turkish kinship over the Euro-Turks by institutionalizing and strengthening their ties to the homeland - and ensuring their loyalty as superior to host-country loyalty - advances standing of Turkey in the international sphere. (Baklacıoğlu 2015)
 This will to reestablish Ottoman greatness has been described as a core part of the AKP’s goals for the country. (Jabbour 2017)


However, a detailed analysis of the AKP’s objectives will only be visible once its long term effects crystallize - and would surpass the framework of this paper.



    The AKP’s multi-facetted engagement of the Euro-Turks follows in many ways the same logic as its approach to domestic Turkish politics as an antithesis to Kemalism. A turn away from secular isolationist Europeanism, and a return to the imperial, Islamic values of the Ottoman empire whose arm reaches far beyond the borders. Its target group in Turkey is very much the same as its target group in the diaspora - the disenfranchised Black Turks of Turkey, that do not identify with pre-AKP politics and ideology; the disenfranchised Euro-Turks that do not identify with the Mustermigration model of the European context, the notion of assimilation, dual loyalty and integration. The AKP has therefore managed to expand the ‘White-Turk’ / ‘Back Turk’ divide to the diaspora - with the European white Turks being the ‘well-integrated’, economically successful and assimilated secular Euro-Turks, and the European black Turks being the less successful, discriminated individuals that are lost in the gap that decades of transnationalism created. The AKP appeals to Euro-Turk’s perception of Islamophobia and xenophobic discrimination just as much as it appealed to rejection of Kemalist secularism in Turkey. The effect of its discourse is comparable to the one in Turkey: a wedge drawn between the communities of the diaspora, a polarization of the society, a rebalancing of identity. As the mentioned surveys show, the disenfranchised Euro-Turks are just as much a majority as the pre 2002 disenfranchised Black Turks in mainland Turkey.


    Whereas in Turkey, democracy led to an institutionalization of this shift in the political balance, the effects in the diaspora are more divisive, as there are no executive institutions to enforce the shift. The main front against Erdoğan in the Austrian and Turkish sphere are exactly the well integrated, assimilated Turks - such as Cem Özdemir - whose voice is heard by the Austrian and German publics.


    The support and creation of institutions in Europe to embrace and organize the anti-assimilationist front - notably the UETD, the renewed DITIB, the numerous parties and electoral list, the Grey Wolves - are a step in the direction of counterbalancing this development. And their opposition to diasporic organizations embracing assimilation widens the gap between the different colours of the diaspora. Especially the AKP funded party’s ideology of representing all immigrants, not just the Turkish ones, illustrates Erdoğan’s image of the Euro-Turks as a form of colony in Europe, spreading the influence of Ankara in the parallel societies of the European reality. Islam has a key role here. In general, the AKP’s diaspora politics can be aligned with what has been termed Neo-Ottomanist politics.




    Acknowledging the danger of excessive essentialism, it could be stated that he success of the AKP in Europe is very much a proof of the validity of its basic assumption: the European model of integration has failed. The perception of ‘otherness’ in the majority of Euro-Turks in Germany and Austria is too strong to be ignored, and the economic difficulty (that is arguably a result from de facto anti-Turkish discrimination) supercharges this perception, resulting in an idealization of the origin of ‘Turkishness' - whose official Turkish definition was not carried in the Kemalist past, but is very much embraced by the AKP. The AKP success can be explained by its successful attempt to fill the gap Turkish transnationalism has left. For this gap to be filled by a force that is considered hostile by European politics and public opinion, its mere existence is a precondition. The same logic applies to Turkey: for Erdoğan to win over the disenfranchised, the disenfranchised had to first identify as such.


    However, the appeal of Erdoğan’s AKP to Euro-Turks can be most simply described as playing on the subjective feeling of losing ones original roots, that one is however consistently reminded of - as Eva Hoffmann so poetically described by stating that “Loss is a magical preservative”. The discourse of Turkish grandeur therefore falls on such fruitful grounds in the diaspora as it responds perfectly to the idealization of the homeland. The focus of Erdoğan’s discourse to firstly assure that this feeling of loss is mutual and that the mythification of subjective otherness is a question of pride - while return is still not necessary - is therefore, unsurprisingly more successful than the assimilationism preached by European governments and the European public. To some extent, it could be stated that Erdoğan’s AKP managed to mythify the diaspora, to give them a spot in the Turkish national organism - a task that was never to this extent taken up by Kemalist governments.






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The evolution of Turkish music in the 20th century: The troubled affirmation of aTurkish identity


The evolution of Turkish music in the 20th century: The troubled affirmation of aTurkish identity

By theo beauchamp


The choice of studying exclusively the 20th century is deliberate. Acknowledging the lack of historic, sociologic and ethno-musicological production published concerning the topic of identity in Turkey since the beginning of the 2000’s, the early conclusions that can be drawn within the analysis of the contemporary Turkey in this field would not enrich our reflection. Thus, this paper only discusses the evolution of Turkish identity through music from the end of the Ottoman Empire to the dawn of the 21th century.

In this paper, we shall consider identity as an imaginary construct that defines societies of individuals in defined places. We assimilate identity to the concept of culture. Discussing identity takes back to the social, ethnical and cultural background that communities and societies build themselves on. It is to consider identity as an evolving concept through time, which shapes and is shaped by evolution of societies. Reflecting on identity, in the Turkish case, is all the more interesting since we witnessed a nation-building process at the beginning of the past century. It implied the imposition of a new culture, a new identity. As a reaction to that, the 20th century in Turkey is a long and tumultuous dispute on identity. Indeed, as we will see, the new Turkish national identity is challenged by many competitive identities and cultures that composed the Ottoman Empire. Understanding the challenge of creating a Turkish identity leads us to study the evolution of these competing identities, and illustrate the path or synthesis to Turkishness. For this purpose, we use the paradigm of music as a revealing characteristic of this evolution. We comprehend music as one of the components of an identity; Music defines the community that collectively listens to it. It also defines the spaces in which music is listened, taught and played. Music can be a religious, as well as a social, cultural or ethnical marker in societies. As a consequence, the focus of music proves itself stunning in its capacity to explain identity phenomena. On this matter, the history of Turkish music represents a very useful tool to the study of the construction of Turkish national identity, or Turkishness.

Overview of the subject and presentation of the main thesis:

Funded by Mustafa Kemal on the ashes of the Ottoman Empire in 1923, the Republic of Turkey constitutes a case of nation-building process. If the previous regime was a religion-based state (caliphate), which built its legitimacy on Islam, the new Turkish state chooses to fund its legitimacy on a western concept: the Nation. As Tekelioğlu states, the three main objectives of the Turkish Republic targeted the foundation of a nation-state, the introduction of the concept of citizenship, and the spread of a new culture. As we, then, understand, creating or at least shaping a defined identity is at the very centre of the Kemalist project, ever since its creation. (Tekelioğlu, 1996: p. 194) Concerning the cultural aspect of the new Turkish identity, music is one of the main targets of the regime, and will be a guiding reference all through the 20th century. 

    However, at first, to give perspective to our work, this paper studies the musical panorama and culture in the Ottoman Empire. This consists in elaborating an historical research on the traditional musical genres listened, played and transmitted, in this western region of the Ottoman Empire, that is to say the future delimitations of Republic of Turkey. It allows us to define the identities presents in the region at the time. Thus, we note the importance of Turkish Folk Music, very popular in the rural world, as an opposition to Classical Music, the palace music, that will be then renamed Turkish Art Music during the first years of the Republic. We take great care in also mentioning Tekke Music, as an important genre in Anatolia, which takes its roots in religious rituals. In this optic, we digress on the traditional music of the Bektaşicommunity. Thereby, focusing on the currents of music at the beginning of the 20th century will help us to acknowledge the multi-cultural dimension of the Ottoman Empire. And therefore help to determine the differentcultural identities that will be competing after the foundation of the Turkish Republic.

    Thereafter, we logically linger on the first decades of the creation of Mustafa Kemal’s republic, which are crucial to the understanding of evolution Turkish identity. Indeed, as we said, Kemalism implemented a new cultural identity, that is supposed to define every single citizen of the country. The Atatürk regime shaping this cultural identity has obvious consequences in the field of the development of music. As a quick prelude to our detailed argumentation, we can strengthen the imposing cultural public policies led by the State. First of all, we notice the ban imposed on Tekke and Turkish Art Music, both monophonic music genres, influenced by oriental Arabic music, which echoes the negation of the Ottoman identity and past. Also, in the process of creating the Turkishness, the State targets Turkish Folk Music as the Turkish national music, with national instruments (saz or bağlama, for example). From that, a very precise definition of what Turkish music roots - and the imaginary memory of Turkish music figures (aşık)– was designed. Finally, to pursue the differentiation from the East, we need to give a special attention to the introduction of polyphonic music, characteristic of Western music As we already realize, the newly born regime wills to revolution passed musical tendencies, applying a unique musical identity to the inhabitants of Turkey.

    Later on, in 1950’s, the modernization and industrialization of Turkey provoked a fast urbanization of the country. The population in the main two cities Istanbul and Ankara skyrocketed because of the arrival of population from rural Anatolia, that were to become the working-class of Turkey. We aim to present urbanization as a key-trigger in the construction of Turkish identity. While the first two decades of the Republic were exclusively characterised by a national culture identity imposition on a rural society- that could maintain their local traditions-; The 1950’s are a time of growing awareness in Anatolian new urban class people’s minds, of the existing gap between the state-promoted identity and their own traditional. In the field of culture, and music, the popular masses we mentioned reject the official polyphonic music programmed on national television and radio, while the promotion and transcription of Egyptian songs and movies are very present. The movement of the “unrestricted performance” is key on the matter. This cultural and musical defiance to the regime shows the deepness of this identity challenging. As a result of that, the 1970’s witness the emergence of Arabesk, a new genre embracing broader musical traditions, especially oriental ones. This phenomenon is the perfect illustration of the popular challenge to the Kemalist vision of Turkish identity. 

    After the 1980 coup d’état, a very precise swift is produced in Turkish politics. The Motherland party, under the rule of Turgut Özal, presents the characteristics of the so-called “New Right” (Betül Yarar, 2008, p. 57): A liberal-oriented economic policy, and a conservative and authoritarian vision of society. Alongside, Özal’s rule also materializes a consequent swift in its approach of Turkish cultural identity. The new tendency is the revival of national heritage, in particular of the Ottoman legacy and memory. The State renews with Ottoman culture. In the field of music, we logically note the revival of Turkish Art Music, banned and censured from1923 to 1988. The official canals of the State media start to value Arabesk, and program it live on television and radio. Arabesk, in the 1980’s and 1990’s will reach, through diversifications of the genre, far beyond the gecekondu and the urban poor. Indeed, Arabesk will, for example, conquer middle-class citizens and new liberal conservative rich classes. Arabesk, is no longer the music of the gecekondu, it becomes the Turkish Popular Music. Arabesk realizes a new synthesis in the field of Turkish music, the westernization of Turkish Art Music. This new synthesis around Arabesk identity tells us a lot about how the nature of the Turkish identity at the end of the 1990’s has differed from the original Kemalist Turkishness.

This overview was necessary to introduce the thesis of this paper. We will proceed chronologically in the development of our argumentation. The first part will concern the first half of the 20th century, until the beginning of urbanization and modernization of Turkey. There, we try to prove that the Ottoman Empire was a multi-cultural society, composed by many identities, and traditions, coexisting under the Caliph authority. Atatürk’s ambition of nationalization produces a selection among these various identities and results in the imposition of a single Turkish identity. (I)

    The second part focuses on the journey of that imposed-from-above identity, and the popular contestation that risen. The identity synthesis imposed by Kemalism is questioned. Studying the second part of the 20th, we try to prove that the multi-cultural roots of the legacy of Ottoman culture, undermined by the State, remerged from the popular masses and created a new synthesis. From the beginning of the 1980’s to the end of the 1990’s, we aim to demonstrate that Turkish identity evolves, embracing the diversity of cultures that characterizes Turkey. (II)

The study of the history of Turkish music’s journey through the 20th century will be a reference point in the identity evolution. The main thesis, and therefore, the conclusive point of this paper can be resumed in one sentence: The consecration of Arabesk musicas the national popular music, at the end of 1990’s, embodies the national acceptation of the multi-cultural dimension of Turkey, and the unification of different traditions under one plural identity.

The selective Kemalist definition of Turkishness: Imposing an exclusive identity on a multi-cultural society

The diversity of musical genres and practices at the end of the Ottoman Empire: Classical Turkish Art Music, Turkish Folk Music and Tekke Music:

    In this first part, we intend to detail the diversity of musical genres and practices that characterised the Ottoman Empire musical sphere. That will allow us to acknowledge and define the multi-cultural dimension of the Ottoman society. 

    First of all, we will linger on the music played and developed by the Ottoman Palace, and that can be considered as the music of the regime: Classical Turkish Art Music (Sanatmuzigi). On the practical level, it is to be remarked that it presented two forms at the time: the popular performance of the genre, and the formal one. The formal Classical Turkish Art Music is specific to the educated elite of the empire and integrates various forms of oriental and Balkan music. (Orhan Tekelioğlu, 1996: p. 197) For example, the main instruments used in Classical Turkish Art Music are “the ud, the tanbur, and the klaşık kemençe” (Banu Senay, 2012: p.280)On the other hand; the popular sub genre of Classical Turkish Art Music is mainly composed by the tradition of the şarkı (song), embodied by figures such as Hacı Arif Bey. (Orhan Tekelioğlu, 1996: p. 197) Both can be considered as urban music. Jerôme Cler proposes an interesting analysis of Sanat muzigi, and states that it is the result of a “synthèse créatrice” of many different concurrent cultures. He enumerates the plurality of origins and cults of Palace musicians, as we can quote the “danseuses et harpists ziganes” or the “poètes compositeurs (musulmans, juifs ou chrétiens)”. At the end, he concludes that Ottoman music was not fundamentally based on ethnic principals, rather on “makam” model (Luc Weissenberg, 2001: p.2-3).

It is for us to understand the diversity of music genres played in Anatolia at the end of the Ottoman period. If we first referred toClassical Turkish Art Music, we need to stress out the similar importance of Turkish Folk Music (Halkmuzigi, as opposed to SanatMuzigi; As Tekelioğlu stresses, Turkish Folk Music defines “Anatolian traditions of folk music”. (Tekelioğlu, 1996: p.197) Turkish Folk Music leads us back to the poetic legacy of türküs nomads, ‘bard errants’, called aşık (literally “lovers” or “poet musicians”). The aşık is a local figure, which is traditionally the responsible of collective memories, through the telling of “epopee(s) héroïque(s)” accompanied by the traditional saz (or bağlama). This imaginary figure of the aşık playing the saz is defined by Jerôme Cler as the symbol of an “appurtenance identitaire à une culture de pasteurs nomads turcs apparentés a l’Asie Centrale”. The production of türkü, which are the poems sang by the aşık, constitute a parallel tradition to şarkı, the songs played and produced in the cities. We note here the important distinction between the rural music and the urban music. To go further, as Jerôme Cler points out, this distinction comes from the parallel development of: “musique savante et rurale (sédentaire et nomade)”. (Luc Weissenberg, 2001: p.2-3 and p.6)

To end the presentation of the diversity of the musical panorama under the rule of the Ottoman Empire, in heartland Turkey, we need to mention the strong religious Sufi practices in Anatolia: “The traditional music of the tarikat’s (…), yet another type referred to as Tekke Music” (Orhan Tekelioğlu, 1996: p. 198). “tekkes” are literally the gathering sites of the Alevis, or Bektaşi community, places of spiritual practices, close to Sufism in certain characteristics. The Bektaşi ritual is known under the name of the semah, from sama’ in Arabic. Similar to the Sufi “audition mystique” (Luc Weissenberg, 2001: p.6) and (Anders Hammarlund, Tord Olsson, Elisabeth Ozdalga,2004: p. 133) More generally, Tekke Music will be later used as a topos categorization that includes all the religious practices, whether Sufi or Bektaşi).


    Regarding to the provided elements, we acknowledge that the ethnic, religious, and social diversity of the musical genres we’ve been reviewing, describe the multi-cultural aspect of the Ottoman Empire. If the Classical Turkish Art Music tells us about the oriental-oriented tendencies of the Ottoman elite, the Tekke Music illustrates another experience in the identity of its musicians and its public, while the Turkish Folk Music is significant in depicting the rural ex-nomad identity of Türks. But the Ottoman Empire, because of many different factors, was not exclusive in its conception of identity. 

    During the last decades of the Ottoman Empire, it is to be noted the growing influence of Western modernism, especially French influences, on Ottoman elites. The dawn of the Ottoman society saw the emergence of two types of “music entertainments”: alafrangaversus alaturka (Volkan Aytar and Azer Keskin, 2003, p.148): 

“To tell the truth, I am not especially fond of alaTurka music. It makes you sleepy, and I prefer alafranga music, in particular the operas and operettas. And shall I tell you something? The modes we call alaTurka aren't really Turkish. They were borrowed from the Greeks, Persians, and Arabs. And people say the drum and zurna [a kind of shrilled pipe] are specifically Turkish in origin, but I have my doubts. It seems that both instruments are really Arabic in origin. I once looked into the observations of an individual who had travelled in Turkistan, and who reported that the time-honoured instrument in villages there was the saz [long-necked fretted lute]. Here, too, in Anatolian villages they always play the saz.” Abdülhamit II (Orhan Tekelioğlu, 1996: p. 197). 

The opinion of Sultan Abdülhamit II on the matter constitutes an ideal transition to our second part. On one hand, we perceive the will to differentiate Turkishness from the Arabic and oriental identity. On the other hand, it represents the growing elitist idea in urban educated classes that insists on importing Western elements in Turkey.


The revolution of Kemalism: Negation of Ottoman musical heritage, sacralisation of Turkish Folk Music, and importation of Western polyphony (1923-1950’s)

    This second part studies the Kemalist identity revolution, which consecrates the negation of the past Ottoman musical heritage and the sanctification of Turkish Folk Music. We try to argument that the Kemalist imposition of a shaped Turkish identity is nothing else than a biased selection carried out among the multi-cultural nature of Turkish society. 

    Mustafa Kemal’s speeches and ideology on the conception of Turkish music were mostly influenced by Ziya Gökalp, “who was univocally the most influential thinker, the leading ideologue of his day”. (Orhan Tekelioğlu, 1996: p. 201) He can be considered on the initiative of the cultural policies imposed by the regime at the beginning of the Turkish Republic (1923). We propose to bring three targets out of the cultural policy of the Kemalist revolution: (1) the negation of the Ottoman music legacy as a differentiation from the Arabic/Islamic world; (2) the sacralisation of Turkish Folk Music as the representative music of Turkish history and identity; (3) the provision of Western polyphony and music into the Turkish society. 

    First of all, as already noted, we need to focus on the undertaking of erasing great part of Ottoman musical heritage. As a non-exhaustive list of measures that will shape the musical panorama of Turkey, we start by focusing on the denial of Turkish Art Music (ex: Classical Turkish Art Music). At first, in 1926 was closed down the Dogu Müzigi Subesi (department of Oriental music studies) of the Dârül’Ethan (State Conservatory), forbidding the teaching of oriental instruments. Additionally, a national ban was imposed on broadcasting Turkish Art Music in 1934. This is made possible by the state-control over Turkish Radio and Television (Orhan Tekelioğlu, 1996: p. 195 and 205). From the beginning of the Republic, Turkish Art Music is defined as the “enemy” and categorized the following way: Turkish Art Music is “the elite music of the Ottoman Palace, representing the apogee of what Ottoman culture had achieved in terms of music, essentially Byzantine. And he calls it ‘Eastern’”. (Orhan Tekelioğlu, 1996: p. 201) As to speak about the popular expression the Classical Turkish Art Music, the şarkı was denied. At the same time, pursuing the secularist ideal of Kemalism, the regime also targeted Tekke Music, and Sufi religious practices as incompatible to the Turkish identity. Some rituals were repressed, such the Bektaşi semah – On the political level, the Bektaşi highest institutions were removed from the Turkish territory and displaced to Albania. During the same period again, every single Tekke was closed, and the Sufi spirituality teaching was forbidden. (Luc Weissenberg, 2001: p.3) As Tekelioğlu states that “Münir Nurettin Selcuk, and the tekke musicians (…) were forced to earn their living after the tekkes were closed by giving private lessons” (OrhanTekelioğlu, 1996: p. 204)At the end of the 1940’s, both Ottoman and Islamic music was been removed from the panorama, which paved the way for the newly State-selected music: Turkish Folk Music.

    Indeed, since the beginning the 1920’s, Mustafa Kemal, still following Gökalp’s ideology, glorifies the Turkish Folk Music, as to promote the Turkish Anatolian roots, and design the relevant Turkish identity. (Orhan Tekelioğlu, 1996: p. 202-203) Thereby, we note the amount of efforts put into place by the State and its different institutions in order to promote Turkish Folk Music. Free of charge, the Halk Evleri (“People’s House”), were institutionalized all over Turkey, providing music classes for everyone. (Orhan Tekelioğlu, 1996: p. 202-203) These local institutions participated to the collection and transcription ten thousand türküs, spreading the myth of the aşık in the country. Banu Senay recollects a Bates statement: “to become a türkü, a song needed to be sung in Turkish and not suspected of having religious functions or meanings” (Banu Senay, 2012: 279). Furthermore, we witness, what Aytar and Keskin point out, the “re-spatialization of the music and entertainment localities”. The State creates a National Music Conservatory, Concert Halls and Ballrooms, and as already mentioned the Halk Evleri. (Volkan Aytar and Azer Keskin, 2003, p. 148) As we just proved, the public policies put into place favoured the spread of Turkish Folk Music in the first decades of the Republic. Turkish Folk Music, and its history, is sacralised as the National music.

    Ziya Gökalp separates music in three different classes, the Eastern Music, the Western Music, and the Turkish Folk music. And according to Tekelioğlu, he wrote: 

Which of these, one wonders, is truly our national music? We have seen that Eastern music is not only ill, it is also non-national. Folk music is that of our national culture, and Western music is that of our new civilisation, so that neither of these is foreign to us. Thus our national music will be born from the fusion of our Folk music and Western music. Folk music has given us numerous melodies, which, if we collect and harmonize in the Western manner, will yield a music that is both national and European ... This, then, is in broad outline the programme for Turkism in the field of music.”

(Orhan Tekelioğlu, 1996: p. 201-202) This can probably sum up the best way what the West-East synthesis, in the terms of Tekelioğlu, consists in. Also, it synthesises the last remark of the second part. Ironically in line with late Ottoman elite’s yearning for Western modernism in the field of music, Kemalism asserts that the model to follow is ‘Western Music’: “Atatürk wanted Turks to listen to symphonies, operas and oratorios”. Even though we won’t discuss it further, we need to mention that the introduction of polyphony, as opposed to Eastern/Oriental monophony, symbolizes, in Kemalist elite minds, the path to civilization. In reference to Eastern Music, Ekrem Zeki Ün argues: 

“(Here is music) to which one’s response can be only cheap sentiment and a tendency to bow to fate. Ignorant of polyphony, which in the West was invented in the tenth century and was based in an effort of intelligence, this simple-minded, whining music represents at least a millennium of stagnation.” 

(Orhan Tekelioğlu, 1996: p. 200) Finally, we comprehend the Kemalist effort to accustom Turks to polyphony and Western music influences and practices. 

    This second part narrated the Kemalist revolution and the actions taken by the Kemal’s government, in the field of music. We’ve been describing authoritarian policies on cultural matters that ambitioned to model Turkishness. We have tried to prove, through the denomination of three target points that Kemalism intended to totally reshape Turkish identity, by alienating the Ottoman heritage and glorifying the Turk’s ethnical origins and traditions.

    As this first phase of the paper comes to an end, we need to sum up the main guiding ideas that justify the argumentation that has been presented. We reviewed the plurality of musical genres, during the Ottoman period. From Tekke Music to Folk Music, or Classical Ottoman music; all of them differing intheir ethnic origins and in their practices. This diversity of musical genres tells us one thing: At the end of the Ottoman Empire, mainland Turkey offers a very diverse panorama of cultural identities. The Kemalist Revolution intended to impose a singular Turkish identity, which was the product of a selective choice among the several cultures at stake in Turkey at the time. As we will see, in the 1950’s, this identity will be questioned by a great part of the Turkish population, that don’t feel included in the Kemalist identity project. At the end of the 1960’s, Turkey witnesses the stunning hatching of Arabesk music, which illustrates the popular challenge on identity. 


Questioning Kemalist identity; redefining Turkish identity: The emergence of Arabesk music

The challenging expression of Turkish popular masses’ identity: From serbest icra* to Arabesk (1950’s-1970’s)

    Here, we will study the emergence of Arabesk music, from the early popularisation of serbest icra, to the development of Gencebay’s Arabesk. We will explain the reasons of this musical spawning, result of the failure of Kemalist imposed identity. First of all, we start from the beginning of the 1930’s, where a certain statement can be made: “Villagers and small town dwellers continued to maintain certain traditional elements of culture that found root in an Arab-Islamic heritage”. (Iren Özgür, 2006: p.178) Indeed, although the Kemalist government tried to change cultural habits and replace them, the traditions in Anatolia couldn’t be totally removed. As a consequence, the villagers started too listen Egyptian music, in a sense, more representative of their identity than the promoted Turkish Folk Music. As Özgür states, “many rural Turks chose to tune into the Egyptian radio when the state-imposed music alternative seemed unsatisfying.”As a massive movement, the popular listening of Egyptian radio, or Egyptian movies countered and impeached the Kemalist cultural policies. “Between 1936 and 1948, 130 Egyptian movies were shown in Turkey”. The population enjoyed the oriental tonality of this imported music, and the State knew it. As an authoritarian response to that, in 1948, “the leaders of the Republic banned not only the importation of Egyptian movies but also the broadcasting of Egyptian music on radio”. (Iren Özgür, 2006: p.178)As a reaction to that, the 1950’s are the time of the translation in Turkish of the Egyptian music, which can be resumed under the appellation of serbest icra (unrestricted performance). As Tekelioğlu explains, Sadettin Kaynak is one of the initiators of this movement. He takes the Turkish music to a renovation of the Turkish Art Music, and promotes the Arabic and Oriental music heritage. (Orhan Tekelioğlu, 1996: p. 210) On this basis, in 1968, Orhan Gencebay understands the popular cultural claims, and produces a new “synthesis between traditional and modern forms”. (Betül Yarar, 2008: p.53)Gencebay first called this new genre Özgür (“free” or “flexible”) but the intellectual elites renamed it Arabesk (“Arab-like”). In few years, Arabesk became a successful music, his first single Bir Teselli Ver sold 600 000 copies. (Betül Yarar, 2008: p.53) With Arabesk, Turkish masses finally found a genre that represented them, and to which they could identify themselves. 

    There are two main explanations to the success of Arabesk music. Both are complementary. First of all, we will linger on the social explication, which bases its theory on the migration of Turkish rural masses to the cities, the growing urbanization and the creation of the gecekondu. Indeed, most migrants arrived in Istanbul or Ankara and were parked in the outskirts of those cities, living in what was called gecekondu. At the same time, the development of the dolmuş is often considered as a key factor of the spread of Arabesk music. Thereby, Stokes considers those two spaces as the loci for Arabesk (VolkanAytar and AzerKeskin, 2003: p. 149). This explanation was mainly spread by the intellectual elites, which saw in the development of Arabesk the rise of the uncivilised masses, which cannot adapt to the civilised urban life. The gecekondu are a zone of great poverty and low education. The dolmuş (or shared taxis), on the other hand, represent how overwhelmed Turkish cities were during the 1960’s and 1970’s, in terms of public transportation. The government cannot control the spaces of music anymore and suffers from this “Arabesk invasion”. (Orhan Tekelioğlu, 1996: p. 211) As a consequence, those new spaces provoked by the urbanization and the “immense rural to urban migration”, became the loci for Arabesk, and the Kemalist State was swamped by the popularisation of this genre. (Volkan Aytar and Azer Keskin, 2003: p. 149)

However, the social explanation of Arabesk is not enough to understand the 1960’s and 1970’s phenomenon. The elites were wrong in considering the dolmuş and the gecekondu as the only reason for Arabesk.They were in the spirit of undermining the content and the form of this movement. However, we note that Arabesk is the result of the Turkish masses challenging the Kemalist identity. As Özbek says: With Arabesk, the Turks “finally found a name to express the identity problem of Turkish society”. (Iren Özgür, 2006: p. 185) Indeed, what is at stake with the sudden emergence of Arabesk is more of an identity challenge than a social statement. Of course the social factor is not to be neglected, and is definitely the vector of this identity strengthening. Nevertheless, Arabesk expresses the cultural difference of the rural Turks of Anatolia, that don’t feel represented by the culture imposed by the government. To go further on that, we will use the theory of Giovanni Giurati, built on the study of the Red Khmers migrant communities in Washington D.C. He states that migrant communities use music in two ways: “music as necessity, music as cultural identity”. (Giovanni Gurati, 1996; p. 4 and 6)This is exactly what we witness in Turkey. The migrants that arrive in cities realize the difference of the expression of Turkish culture by the Kemalist elites and from that realization; they project their identity in music. The consequence of that is the popular support on Arabesk. The elites of the 1960’s and of the 1970’s were blind, and didn’t understand what Arabesk illustrated in the Turkish society.

    At the end of the 1970’s and right before the 1980 coup d’etat, Arabesk music has reached the popular masses and its popularity don’t stop to expand. We qualify Arabesk the artistic expression of the questioning of identity by the popular masses. They reject the identity the government wanted to impose on Turkish society. And this is how we prove the failure of the Kemalist project that was indeed a selection among different cultures; those cultures rise up again and provoke the need for a new synthesis. As we will see, after the 1980 coup d’etat, the government cultural policies reorient Turkish identity. As an illustration of that, Arabesk is consecrated the Turkish Popular Music.


Consecration of Arabesk as Turkish Popular Music; Revalorisation of Turkish Art Music and Ottoman heritage: a new statement on Turkish identity (1980’s-1990’s)

    After the 1980 coup d’etat, Turgut Özal and the Motherland Party ruled on Turkey from 1983 to 1993. That produced a swift in Turkish politics toward economy, applying liberal policies on Turkish society. During those years, we note that in the field of music, the government wills to revalorise Ottoman heritage by bringing back Turkish Art Music. At the same time and on a national level, Arabesk becomes the Turkish Popular Music. 

    First of all, we will dwell on the revalorisation of Turkish Art Music, which was denied by the passed governments, and the reification of Ottoman past. Betül Yarar describes Turgut Özal’s government as the “New right“. As Stokes points out, the government’s cultural policy (…) was based on the recognition of Ottoman history and culture as the national heritage”. Indeed, in the field of music, “Turkish Folk Music was often rescheduled and replaced by Turkish Art Music”. (Betül Yarar, 2008: p.62) The idea was to glorify the Ottoman past in order to provoke a new synthesis for the assimilation of a new identity. As an illustration of that, Orhan Gencebay appeared in 1980 for the first time “singing Yarrabim on the TRT’s New Years Eve programme”. (Betül Yarar, 2008: p.62) As we have just seen, the populist policies of the government could perfect read the popular demands, and while they were promoting Turkish Art Music, they glorified Arabesk, which became the Turkish Popular Music. 

    During the 1987-1988 campaign, Özal chose for jingle of the campaign “‘Seni Sevmeyen Ölsün’”, an Arabesk song. In 1988, the official ban on broadcasting Arabesk music was abolished. (Betül Yarar, 2008: p.62)This is the first time a government of the Turkish republic frees a monophonic music, which is inspired by Arab music. That is considered a huge swift in the field of culture. We note the vision by Turgut Özal and the MP party, of what Turkish people appealed to. They understood the popular challenge of the Kemalist vision on identity. At the end of the 1990, as a result of that, Arabesk becomes the Turkish Popular Music. Indeed, we will demonstrate it by analysing the new spaces of music that Arabesk conquered during the two decades at stake. Indeed, “Arabesk is no longer (…) the music of the dolmuş and the gecekondu”, it conquered wild segments of the population, from the urban poor to the “nouveaux riches”. In the biggest city, Istanbul, new spaces of music appeared and every one of them could play Arabesk, the audience – even the elite classes -is now used to this music genre. (Volkan Aytar and Azer Keskin, 2003, p. 151-152) At the end of the 1990’s, it wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that Arabesk is the national Turkish music. 

    We tried, in this paper, to draw a parallel between the journey of Turkish identity and the history of music in Turkey during the 20th century. Even though our analysis implied choices, and is therefore incomplete, we intended to reflect in the most complete way about the chosen topic. We think that music is somehow an element of people’s identity, and, at the end of our researches, we remark the relevance of studying music history, when it comes to define identities.

    We said that Mustafa Kemal and Kemalism in general tried to impose a unique identity on a very diverse and multi-cultural society. The Kemalist “Turkish identity” was, in fact, a selection among the residues of the Ottoman Empire different cultures. They put at the centre of their cultural vision Turkish Folk Music, which never really became the popular music. Later on, we saw that Arabesk represented broader musical traditions, including elements both from Western music and Arab music. For that reason, and responding to our thesis, we conclude that we believe Arabesk is the first national Turkish music, which represents Turkish people in general. Arabesk has succeeded in embodying the multi-cultural dimension of Turkey, and in unifying the Turkish people around one hybrid music, and one plural identity; it represent a statement on Turkish identity, at the end of the century, “neither Islamic nor European but (that) incorporates elements of both”. (Iren Özgür, 2006: p.185)













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The “Turkish-style” presidency: The second death of Atatürk


The “Turkish-style” presidency: The second death of Atatürk

The “Turkish-style” presidency: The second death of Atatürk

By Elie Chaaya

    On the 16th of April will be held the referendum on the Turkish constitutional reform and the fate of the Turkish republic will be decided. The stakes are high in this referendum as the shift to the presidential republic proposed in the Turkish context is no mere organisational reshuffling. Behind the heated debates witnessed at the constitutional commission concerning this reform, lies a historical struggle that has defined the Turkish political scene since the creation of the Kemalist republic. 

In fact, the isolated study of this constitutional reform is not enough to comprehend what the ratification of this amendment entails regarding the identity of the Turkish republic. The potential “evet” vote could cement and codify the creation of a new state, one radically different, even opposed, to the vision conceived by Ataturk in 1923. The approval of the ratification will officialise the end of the Kemalist tutelage and monopoly on the Turkish Republic. 

This progressive erosion of the Kemalist institutions is part of a long process dating back to the very birth of the of the Kemalist republic. The implementation of the Kemalist republic in the 1920’s reveals a pedagogical failure that rendered the model it proposed non-inclusive for the whole population. In fact, the Kemalist vision was representative of a demographic minority from the start which created a binary rupture in the Turkish society: the state-discourse integrated Turk on one hand, and the marginalised non-represented Turk. Consequently, the latter group started expressing very early its need to renew with its more Ottoman, conservative and Islamic heritage which was asphyxiated by Kemalism. 

However, Ataturk structurally elaborated the institutions in such a way that would allow Kemalism to remain as the sole state ideology after his death, and even after the shift to multi-partism. The army tutelage safeguarded the Kemalist ideology at the head of the state throughout the 20th century.

Therefore, the analysis of the proposed Turkish constitutional reform not only propose a juridical diagnostic of the Turkish state, but it also offers a historical diagnosis of the Turkish society. Indeed, it officialises the end of military tutelage on the Turkish political sphere, however, this process was effectively terminated as witnessed during the failed 2016 coup.

The rather interesting interpretation that we can make of this constitution is that it is an objectively populist constitution in its essence. The establishment of a majoritarian system will structurally appeal to the “masses”. It gives almost irrevocable representability on the political sphere to the demographic majority. This political configuration has a big electoral demand since it concerns the majority of the Turkish society who were structurally marginalized from effective political representability. This majoritarian constitution syncretizes into a presidential regime, advocated and carried by the charismatic figure of M. Erdogan. The “evet” circle claims that the constitution only re-equilibrates the balance between the societal reality and political representability. Presented this way, this constitutional reform would be the legitimate macro-historical re-adaption of the political sphere to the reality of the Turkish population. 

However, the juridical analysis of the proposition reveals a desire beyond equilibrium, a desire that could be the instrumentalisation of this electoral demand to capitalise on the momentum AKP has acquired and codify a presidential system –even taken out of his context-that does not take in consideration the principles of effective separation of powers, independence of the judiciary and an efficient mechanism of checks and balances. The current political reality of Turkey points to this agenda, with Erdogan’s controversial record on dealing with opposition.  The new Turkish republic could be the mere codification of the pre-existing political reality, which would bury definitely Kemalism as the de facto state vision, and constitutionalise what Kemalists in Turkey identify as “the second death of Ataturk”.

Structure of the research

This research paper comprises two parts. The first part is centred around the gradual erosion of the Kemalist institutions. This part was included to complement the global thesis of this paper, supporting that the constitutional reform is the fruit of this century-long process, and that it carries the essence of the representative desire felt by the ever-marginalised Black Turks. The second part, focused on the pure juridical analysis of the constitutional reform corresponds more to the object and focus of the winter school project (and therefore word limit) to be submitted. Hence, the first part serves more as a macro-historical contextualisation of the juridicalanalysis of the constitutional reform.

The inevitable erosion of Kemalist institutions

The pedagogical failure of Kemalism

In order to comprehend the context of this constitutional reform on a historic scale, the understanding of the gradual rise of political conservatism (in the Turkish sense) in the Kemalist regime is necessary. Therefore, we must go back to the creation of the Kemalist republic and the reasons behind its gradual erosion.

Ataturk wanted to break with all structural, political and cultural heritage left from the ottoman empire as he saw it as the reason behind the state’s under-developed level. On a foreign policy level, this meant severing ties with the Arab world synonym with archaism, while aspiring instead to emulate western, more developed, culture. This vision materialises on a national level with very hard and radical reforms, dismantling the Turkish societal structures. The new republic of Ataturk was purposefully built as the antipode of the ottoman sultanate, concretely affecting all domains of what could constitute the identity of a country and its people: The Caliphate was abolished and replaced by a republican secular regime, the Sharia was replaced by a Switzerland inspired civil code, the “Adhan” was now in Turkish instead of Arabic, the Arabic alphabet was replaced by the Latin one, Hijri calendar was replaced by the Gregorian one, the Hijab was banned, the traditional costume was abandoned in favour of a more European design, and so was the fez. Beyond the pragmatic and superficial changes this non-exhaustive list of reforms induces lies a deeper, pedagogical and psychological issue.In fact, all the fundamentals elements of used to express a representation –space, time, language, literature, music, clothing- were altered to be molded around the vision of a single man. The Turkish citizens were facing a state-sponsored, conditioning of their perception of reality. His project had the clear ambition of “de-symbolizing” and “re-symbolizing” the Turkish collective existence. He tackled the superficial appearances of the Turk at the time in the hope of provoking a long term reform in the Turkish collective mentality. He attempted a rather prophetic approach in the sense that he was the bearer of a revolutionizing message structured around a new code of conduct and symbols for his disciples. 

However, he did not use the preexisting codes to deliver his message, contrary to the method in which Prophet Mohammad proceeded: he used the preexisting Arabic language and the symbols and codes of the Medina to reach out to the targeted population, Ataturk on the other hand utilized another civilization’s codes, codes that were really far from the local reality at the time. His message could therefore not be properly assimilated by the population. Furthermore, Turkish societies in the 20’s had neither the economic resources, the scholars, the scientists, or the universities that could have given the substance to modernity as it was given in the West enlightenment period up until the industrial revolution. On the other hand, western societies were still suffering from positivism at the time but they pursued a free independent constant and rigorous critique of knowledge whereas the Kemalistmethod of rationalizing the Turkish society was completely exogenous an imposed in an irrevocable fashion.

The authoritarian manner in which the Kemalist project was applied created a divided and polarized society. Serif Mardin, a prominent Turkish sociologist, identified the creation of a binary society: a central, Kemalist bureaucratic group, composed of military officers, the urban westernized and educated population being the concretization of the Kemalist identity and state discourse, while on the other hand the was the periphery people, the conservative Anatolian population standing in strong opposition of the state policies and therefore marginalized by the political sphere. Jenny White identified this fracture as the White Turk/ Black Turk divide, creating a dialectical relationship between both social groups. The White Turks represented the “just” state sponsored model to follow, while the Black Turks were discarded from political representation and looked down on with disdain. However, in this dominant/oppressed relation, the Black Turks constituted demographically the large majority of the population, thus creating a huge gap between the political and the social majority that would inevitably backlash on a macro-historical level as it has been witnessed.
The structural failure of the Kemalist “Garde-fou”

Ataturk had possibly anticipated - at least on the short term - that his reforms would not be interiorized by the population. He had the desire to structurally neutralize all possible claims and attempts of a return to an Ottomanist political system. Therefore, he had built a legal and structural defense mechanism composed of multiple variables that would be the warrant of the Kemalist Republic and its 6 arrows.

The non-sustainability of the single party system

During the first 30 years of the republic, the Turkish republic was built around a constitutional single party system, where other parties could not be represented. Therefore, the only vision and ideologythat was “allowed” to effectively structure and shape this new Turkish republic was Kemalism. However, this first political barrier of defense against non-Kemalist ideologies was abandoned in 1946. Indeed,once the multipartysystem was introduced in 1946, it theoretically allowed other ideologies to organize themselves around a party with the chance to be represented and run for elections.

The unique party system was abandoned due to a simultaneous national and international pressure. Pressure for change was made by the agricultural lobbies (who were still traditionally in controlof the rural populations) who weren’t satisfied neither with the agricultural reform of 1945, or the overall disdain by the government (materializing into a lack of aids), and the business lobbies on the other hand who wanted to reduce state interventionism in the economy and the creation of a more liberal economic structure. Frustration also grew among intellectuals and academic circles around the restrictions concerning liberty of expression. On the other hand, the severing of diplomatic relations between the USSR and Turkey (following the non-renewal of the non-aggression pact in 1945) forced Turkey to rally on the other super-power in the context of the cold war, the USA. However, military aid entitled came at a democratic cost for Turkey, in line with the Truman vision of 1947: the economic, political and military alliance between both countries would force Turkey into a more democratic multiparty system, and the end of the influence of “totalitarian communism”.

What happened here on after on the Turkish political scene is an indicator of the penetration (or in this case non-penetration) of the Kemalist ideology within the Turkish society. The Turkish political scene witnessed the gradual rise of a series of parties more representative of the Black Turks constituted around conservatism, a more liberal economic approach, and less importance given to secularization (relative to the Kemalist party) to relieve the asphyxiation of the Islamic tradition imposed by Kemalism.

AKP and the erosion of Kemalist praetorianism

The single party system - being the first structural Kemalist defense mechanism safeguarding it as the state ideology against others - was therefore no longer a rampart against other political manifestations (notably the Black Turk agenda). The military remained however, a stronghold for the Kemalist ideology. The army plays a central role in the safeguard of the Kemalist state-vision. Turkey has a rich history of military involvement in politics which has often been materialized as a military memorandum or coup d’état, exclusively against non-Kemalist governments. Even if this guardianship role is not mentioned in the constitution, Ataturk explicitly encouraged this interventionist behavior during his speeches. If the army esteems that the constitution or the 6 principles of Ataturk are being breached in a way by the political sphere, it will intervene in what is called a “protective coup d’état” (or a form of ultimatum). The army however should not govern directly, it would only set the rule of governance and monitor that the rules are well respected.  William Hale has identified this dynamic as a form of Praetorianism: There is an omnipresent tutelage of the army over politics, a tutelage that is in this case based on the respect of the Kemalist doctrine.

The army tutelage has succeeded in every intervention it has undertaken in the 20th century to topple any government that attempted to significantly drift away for the Kemalist state doctrine, rendering Turkish democracy a multi-party system only by facet but effectively uni-ideological.However, since the rise to power of AKP in 2002, the army has progressively lost its tutelage on Erdogan’s government until the first failed coup d’état in 2016. The idea of reducing the army’s hold on politics was first presented as an exogenous obligation stemming from the European Union. In 2003, a report from the EU suggesting the army (and most notably the NSC, who had legally binding recommendations towards the executive power). In 2004, AKP abided to the recommendation to stay in line with the Copenhagen convention and further its changes to join the EU. Hence, the NSC recommendations became non-binding, and the President of republic became the head of the NSC instead of the chief of staff. Civil ministers were also included in the NSC. The NSC was stripped of its executive power and reduced to a consultative status influenced by the presence of the President and the ministers. The Sledgehammer case further cemented the government’s hold on the army by detaining 150 officers on charges of conspiracy against the civilian government. The 2010 constitutional amendment reduced the power of military tribunals, and stripped immunity on armygenerals (allowing him to pursue the surviving coup perpetrators). Following the resignation of the general of the army in 2011 to denounce the arrests and the government’s involvement in the army, Erdogan immediately named a pro-AKP general constituting the first non-Kemalist military staff. Logically, the attempted coup of 2016 was bound to fail since the majority of the army was under the influence of the government. The coup was a natural reaction to the overconcentration of powers by Erdogan, motivating both the Gulenist and Kemalist agenda. It was also a response to the rising crony capitalism practiced by Erdogan. The failure of the coup further deteriorated the image of the army and delegitimized its statute within the population.Erdogan usedthe coup to give himself the image of a victim, which would make him more relatable to the oppressed Black Turks and thus strengthen his popularity amongst them. It gave him the legitimacy on the other hand, to conduct an unprecedented purge affecting the domains of the military (arrest of about 3000 soldiers), the judiciary (replacing 36 percent of Turkey’s judges), education (suspension of 15,200 teachers in the publics sector, 21,000 in the private sector, as well as the suspension of all deans of state and private universities) and the media (16 TV stations, 23 radio stations and 54 newspapers were shut down).Such state interventionism and non-exhaustive limitation of expressional, judicial and educational liberties raises questions on the respect of the principles of democracy. 

It is important to understand the context in which this constitutional reform would take place since the voting for the proposition may have not even occurred if theKemalist army tutelage wasnot dismantled. This amendment project is the fruit of 17 years of de-kemalisation of the Turkish republic, all from within the political institutions set by the Kemalist vision itself. 

After juridical analysis of these very amendments, questions are raised: does this reform respect the principles of a democracy on a juridical and constitutional level such as the effective separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary? Furthermore, has Erdogan moved on from his promise to rebalance the political and social sphere, to a desire of caitalizing on his momentum and rebalancing the constitutional and juridical frame to match the reality of his effective executive power and reach?

Note: The goal of this part was not to go in depth about the core of the Black Turk/ White Turk agenda over time, but rather to analyze the gradual decomposition of the Kemalist republic and the roots and causes of this process from a purely structural and not ideological point of view. The amendment proposition was only possible due to this long de-Kemalisation process. The first part was therefore focused on how and why the main ramparts of the Kemalist fortress – The single party system, the army– slowly eroded over time. A global comprehension of the two opposite ideologies is however necessary to see how the Black Turk ideology used the structures put in place by the Kemalist institutions to infiltrate the system and equilibrate political representability with the demographic reality. The constitutional reform, if validated by the people, will be the killing blow to the Kemalist Republic as it codifies and institutionalizes the acute de-Kemalisation process that Turkey has been witnessing since the rise to power of AKP. 

Beyond the death of Kemalism: The codification of a pre-existing presidential regime

The constitutional reform proposes a transition from of a parliamentary regime, pillar of the republicanism arrow of Ataturk, to a presidential regime. Ataturk’s desire was to break completely from the authoritarian regime of the Sultanate which concentrated all powers in the hands of one man without any accountability. There would be no main figure similar to that of the sultan, as the president would be elected by the parliament and would have very limited powers. 

The political structure of a presidential constitution is not forcibly authoritarian in itself. The Venice commission of the European Union states in its report on the Turkish constitutional reform that a presidential regime per se is not contrary to the fundamentals of democracy, and therefore not synonym with authoritarian rule. The USA is governed by a presidential regime that insures a systemof checks and balances and an effective separation of powers. Therefore, the American constitution will be used as a comparative tool to analyze the proposed constitutional amendment. 

SETA, an independent yet conservative and “government friendly” think tank suggests that the constitutional reform aims to get rid of the 'last traces' of the system of tutelage and strengthen the rule of law and democracy. This statement is representative of the official discourse held by the “Evet” political figures in addition to the will of creating a more efficient government by preventing the formation of coalitions, and allowing a quicker decision-making process. 

However, worries have been expressed by constitutional jurists about the true extent of this constitution. The amendments proposed may go further than rebalancing the political with the constitutional reality, into cementing practices and codifying a regime that breaches basic principles of democracy, mainly being the separation of powers and the functioning of an independent judiciary system, leading to a diminishing system of checks and balances weakened furthermore by a majoritarian rule. In legal literature, presidentialism is often considered to be generally less conducive to democracy, especially in countries with deep political cleavages, in which more than two political parties compete for power and which do not have a long tradition of political compromises, which is the case of Turkey in its Black Turk/ White Turk societal division.

    The proposed amendments concern 18 articles of the constitution, concerning the powers and the re-organization of the executive, the Grand national assembly, thedesignation of the members of the constitutional court, the electoral law, and the power of the military institution and its global role in the political sphere. 

“Majoritarian populism”

If we were to describe the constitutional in one word without any moral or subjective judgement, a majoritarian system would probably be the most accurate objective term. Indeed, beyond the subjective authoritarian/democratic divide, the main objective of this constitution is to put the interests of the social majority at the forefront of the governmental agenda. It is populist in the sense that it assumes that the will of the majority, of the masses, is the will of the nation, therefore power is theoretically given to the people through the figure of one man, the president of the republic. The majority rules, and the president incarnates the nation (that it in this case effectively only the majority of the electors) as well as the state. Multiple mechanisms are put in place to insure this majoritarian system.

    The first mechanism put in place concerns the electoral law. Amended article 77 stipulates that the elections of deputies of the TGNA and of the President are to be held on the same day. This will mean in practice that the President willusually also control the parliamentary majority. This is motivated by the need to avoid conflicts between President and parliament. However, this goes against the principles of separation of power. The goal of democracy is not to insure a uniform approach of the various powers, but to ensure that a representative dialogue is established between them. It breaches the system of separation of powers in the sense that it renders it structurally impossible. In practice, the legislative will always be in line with the executive. It rather follows a concept of unity of power which is characteristic for not so democratic systems.

    This majoritarian system is further cemented by the fact that the president would no longer have to leave his party once elected. Therefore, the elected party would rule uniformly the strengthened executive rule via the President and the weakened legislative power through majority, all while be benefitting from constitutional legitimacy to do so.Furthermore, this majoritarian system will structurally restrain the political representability of minority parties and create a sort of authoritarianism of the majority.

    The system that could result may be a local version of what the Argentinian political scientist Guillermo O’Donnell called ‘delegative democracy’: in which a strong president uses his or her direct mandate to rule in the name of the nation at the expense of horizontal accountability and of the rule of law. Erdoğan insists that this system simply makes the de facto the de jure reality.

A majoritarian system plaguing the separation of powers

Through the 2007 amendments, the role of the President has become increasingly important and scholars have described the system as a sort of “attenuated parliamentarism”.This form of parliamentarism may be considered as one of the many forms of so-called semi-presidential regimes. The direct election of the President, introduced in 2007, is the main element of this trend towards semi-presidentialism. These amendments have paved the way to the 2017 reform and had the objective of ensuring a smooth transition between a parliamentary and presidential system.

The proposed 2017 reform however a true shift towards a presidential regime. The main amendment of the constitution concretizing the shift to a presidential regime is made to the article 104: the president’s duties and powers. It states that the executive power shall be exercised by the President of republic. It induces the disappearance of a cabinet accountable to the parliament, thus creating a system similar to other democratic presidential systems where ministers are replaced by vice-presidents directly nominated by the president. However, as stipulated in the amendment of the article 87, the vice-presidents are no longer under the scrutinizing of the TGNA nor do they need their authorization once nominated.The President therefore has the sole authority to dismiss them. He would also have the authority to issue decrees concerning all domains of the law, they don’t however hold the same legal value of a value on the pyramid of Kelsen.


On his legislative power, the President may “issue presidential decrees on matters relating to executive powers” by virtue of draft Article 104(17).  The president is entitled to decrees as in other democratic presidential systems. Furthermore, the principle that legislation prevails over presidential decrees represents a check on the president’s legislative powers. However, “matters relating to executive powers” remains a rather problematic formulation since the executive could technically regulates all domains of society. The only reserve stated on that matter is that presidential decreesmay not regulate matters having to do with certain human rights enshrined in the Constitution. He does however have a strong influence on the legislative procedure.  Draft Article 89 grants the President an important veto power. If the President sends a law back to the Assembly for reconsideration, the law can only be adopted with the absolute majority of the total number of members of the Assembly. 

    In case of political deadlock between the parliament and the president, the “bilateral renewal of the elections” makes an interesting study object from the prism of constitutional law. Both the parliament and the president have the power to dissolve the TGNA in case of a political deadlock, however the implications differ depending on the actor who triggered the procedure. Both can trigger the elections based on any grounds whatsoever, the TGNA needs however a 3/5 majority to trigger its own election renewal.On the other hand, if the president calls for the dissolution of the TGNA, he cannot present himself for the election renewal if it is during his second mandate. The fact that the president has to resign encourages him to trigger the dissolution only in extreme measures. However, in the case where the TGNA triggers the dissolution, the president can represent himself for the new elections. In theory, this distinction ensures a check on the fact that the president cannot use his power to dissolve the assembly in order to run for a third mandate and thus remain in power for more than 10 years (equivalent of two mandates). 

    In practice however, the majoritarian system created by the simultaneous dual election of the president and the TGNA quasi-guarantees that the president will be representative of the parliamentary majority. Thus, in accordance with the president, the parliament could trigger early elections in which the president could run even in his second mandate, effectively opening the way for the president to run for a third mandate. Initially a checks and balance tool, this amendment could be instrumentalised in a way allowing Erdogan (or any other future president) to remain in power for around 12 years. Technically, Erdogan could end his governance having accumulated a total of at least 27 years at the head of the Turkish state (from 2002 up until 2029 with the potential amendment).

The eradication of the constitutional remains of military tutelage

An important part of this reform is consecrated to the reversal of the military tutelage on the political sphere as stipulated in articles 104 and 118. To further undermine and reverse the tutelage of the army, the President would “determine the national security policies and take the necessary measures” (draft Article 104(13)). For these purposes, he appoints the Chief of the General Staff and he also appoints virtually all members of the National Security Council (draft Article 118), whose organization and duties should be regulated by presidential decrees. Military Courts cannot be established except for in disciplinary courts, thus completely abolishing the potential of a coup attempt. Furthermore, all military members are removed from the Constitutional Court thus ceasing and preventing military interventionism in the legal foundations of the Turkish state.

    These amendments are welcome by the Venice commission since they cement the end of the Kemalist praetorianism and therefore end military tutelage on the Turkish political sphere. Intrinsically, the disappearance of the Kemalist “garde-fou” allows for another state-vision to be put in place, the one that the people of Turkey will vote formajoritarily during any given presidential election. This clause is important to nuance the democratic critics made towards this constitutional reform. Definitely, this new constitution creates a very pure majoritarian rule due partly to the simultaneous election of the president and the national assembly. It is a very majoritarian populist constitution in the sense that the interests of the social and demographic majority only would be very strongly represented on a political scale. Erdogan’s claims on giving back “the power to the people” is not entirely wrong in the sense that the effective majority of the population will rule the country. On the long term, this system will ensure that the political reality is more synchronized with the social reality than the previous one, regardless of the context. In opposition with the Kemalist republic, it does not impose an eternal “garde-fou” such as the army to safeguard a unique political ideology or vision, and thus allows the true will of the majority to be expressed. 

An ineffective independence of the judiciary

The effective independence and impartiality of the judiciary is a primary criterion for an effective democracy, and it becomes even more so important in a presidential system.  Under the proposed amendment, the president will be able to name almost half (6 out of 13 of the Council of Judges and Prosecutors. He would also appoint the minister of justice who would head the council as well as his undersecretary. It is important to have in mind that the president is no longer bound by “pouvoirneutre”, and that a partisan behavior concerning the nomination of the judges would be legitimized by the amended constitution. On the other hand, the 7 remaining members are to be elected by the TGNA. However, we must re-precise that due to the simultaneous presidential/legislative elections, the TGNA should logically hold the same political agenda stemming from the same party as the president. Conjugated with the presidential nominees, the elected members would form a partisan majority within the council. 

    This system presents a major breach on the independence of the judiciary from the executive and legislative power, as the CJP is the main self-governing body overseeing appointment, promotion, transfer, disciplining and dismissal of judges and public prosecutors. Getting control over this body thus means getting control over judges and public prosecutors, especially in a country where the dismissal of judges has become frequent and where transfers of judges are a common practice. 

    Concerning the Council of State, its authority to examine draft legislation proposed by the Council of ministers has, logically, been removed. Other than the fact that the president would now be able to name a quarter of the council, its capacity to examine draft legislation hasn’t even been replaced by the competence to give its opinion on presidential decrees, allegedly in order to avoid a possible conflict with a later finding by the Constitutional Court that the decree is unconstitutional. This measure however may not be sufficient to verify the constitutionality of the president’s legislative action. Indeed,the Venice commission states that while the amendments define limits to the Presidential legislative activity with a formal prevalence of laws over decrees, the Constitutional Court has not been given the express power to decide over the conflicts which will inevitably arise in this respect. Furthermore, the modifications concerning the manner of appointment of the members of the CPJ will have consequences on the constitutional court. The CPJ already being responsible for the election of the members of The Court of Cassation as well as the council of state, both courts are entitled to choose two members of the Constitutional Court by sending three nominees for each position to the President, who makes the appointments. This mechanism consolidates further the grasp of the majoritarian party and the president on the judiciary, and ties the knot of the concentration of the three powers in the hand of the President. 

    After analysis of the amendments concerning the higher courts of Turkey and the organization of the judiciary power, we notice that the separation of powers is not effectively respected concerning the independence and impartiality of the judiciary system, as promised in the constitutional amendment. The amendment reinforces a de facto partisan influence and a grasp on the nomination of the members of the higher courts, mainly on the CPJ which influences the selection of the members of other courts notably the Constitutional Court.

Note on the elaboration of the constitutional reform

    The Constitutional Commission in charge with scrutinizing the proposals consisted of 25 Members of which 15 are from the AKP, 5 are from the CHP, 3 are from the HDP and 2 are from the MHP, as per the composition of parliament. Since it was very dominated by AKP representatives, very little changes were made to the initial draft (3 of the 21 initial amendments were abandoned). A consensual approach to the reform was not successful, which resulted in the elaboration of an “AKP constitutional reform”. This is problematic as the potential legal foundations and political system of the new Turkish Republic will not be representative of the general consensual will of the society but rather determined by one segment –admittedly majoritarian- of its population. 

    The constitutional proposal remains consistent with legal theorist Carl Schmitt’s argument that effective government requires a strong dictatorial approach that embraces permanent crisis to free the executive from normal legal restrictions.  It is in the context of political and security turmoil that M. Erdogan gained momentum to capitalise on his de-Kemalisation process and potentially constitutionalise the end of the Kemalist republic and the birth of Erdoganist turkey. The “Turkish-style” presidency incarnates a system of governance clearly more reminiscent of Sultanism. Behind the populist discourse lies the populist constitution, which would pave the way to a pure majoritarian rule. The Black Turks see this constitution as the recognition of their demographic and societal majority, and the opportunity for them to be truly represented and included not only by the government, but by also by the legal foundations of the Turkish Republic for the first time. Beyond the ever-present desire of representability that was born the day Kemalism was introduced as Arkoun theorised it, this constitution is also seen by the Black Turks as the ratification of the extinction of the oppressive military tutelage.

    After analysis of the juridical system proposed, we note that the agenda of the “evet executives” and notably M. Erdogan seems to be more than just the ratification of de-Kemalisation and more effective representability. M. Erdogan seems to have utilized the gained momentum from the demographic and social majority’s aspiration to power to legitimize and codify the rather authoritarian governance philosophy he is currently leading. This materializes into a Presidential system where the executive power is concentrated in the hands of the head of state, and a system where he can legally exercise influence on the legislative and judiciary system, thus constitutionally breaching the democratic principle of separation of power and checks and balances. Furthermore, the fact that institutions and mechanisms between the leader and the nation are reduced to a minimum cements our proposed notion of majoritarian populism.

    Finally, if removed the current political conjuncture and reality that puts Erdogan at the center of the picture, this majoritarian system remains constitutionally problematic on the long term as it will insure that minority ideologies will hardly ever have access to effective political power. It seems as if this constitutional reform is the 100-year-old answer to a “minoritarian” Kemalist system.










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How ‘Hizmet’ became ‘FETÖ’


How ‘Hizmet’ became ‘FETÖ’

Hey Gidi Günler! : How ‘Hizmet’ became ‘FETÖ’


President Erdoğan’s archenemy, the Gülen Movement and its leader Pennsylvania- based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen (b. 1941) have been on the global agenda since the coup attempt of July 15th 2016. The reason for this is President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s insistent claims that the Movement, a ‘terrorist network’, was behind the coup plot. Since then, Erdoğan has been calling for a purge against the Movement which he himself described as ‘a witch-hunt’.

Fethullah Gülen without doubt has been one of the most influential figures in the Islamicworld.  Themovementinspiredbyhim,  (whichwillbereferredtoasGülen Movement from this point on) is a transnational faith-based community that historically had complicated relations with both the Turkish State and its Islamist dissidents. The Movement, which addresses itself as Hizmet (‘The Service’) is globally known for its emphasis on education and interfaith dialogue, and presents itself as a ‘moderate’ and peaceful alternative to radicalism. It had been criticised in Turkey for having a ‘secret agenda’. A considerable numberofpeoplestartedtothinkmoreabouttherealityoftheGülenMovement,  as according to many, the coup attempt and the events that followed had revealed their ‘true- face’. However, Gülen denies all the allegations about him being the mastermind behind the coup.

Since the unsuccessful coup d’état attempt until this day,2138,168 people have been sacked and 101,127 have been detained. 2,099 schools, universities and dormitories have been shut down by government decrees as well as 149 media outlets. People detained for allegations of belonging to the Gülen Movement include teachers, academics, soldiers, police officers, prominent businessmen, ordinary citizens and civil servants from all government sectors ( Turkey comes in first when it comes to the number of jailed journalists: 162 of whom are imprisoned, most of which have been arrested due to alleged links with the Movement, which the Turkish government calls ‘FETÖ’, which literally means ‘pro-Fethullah Terrorist Network’ (De La Baume & Paravicini, 2016). As a result of the most extensive purge ever recorded in Turkish history and immense persecution, the movement which was once deemed the most successful civil society groups, is now non-existent inside the country’s borders.

In line with the new national narrative, there seems to be consensus within Turkish society that Gülen movement is indeed a terrorist network and must be purged. The secular main opposition CHP’s main focus has been criticising Erdoğan’s AKP for ‘letting FETÖ flourish’, thus subscribing to Erdoğan’s rhetoric against Gülen. The secularist base seems to benefit from the conjuncture as they refer to ‘FETÖ’ when generalising about the potential dangers posed by Islamic movements and thus promoting their laic agenda. Gülen’s proponents hold that Hizmet is simply a civil society network that believes in secularism, aimed at promoting values such as democracy, education, tolerance and interfaith dialogue. In light of all these ongoing speculations about the movement, this paper will seek to give an answer to the question, ’What is the Gülenist Reality?”

The argument of this paper will be the following: The dynamics of state-society relations in Turkey shaped the characteristics of the Gülen movement and forced it to have a secretive nature. It is not based on an Islamist agenda: the Movement blends many ideologies in its thinking and practices, and is centred around the cult leadership of Fethullah Gülen. Althoughallegationsofbeinga‘terroristorganisation’ areincorrect,  itistruethatthe movement sought to dominate the Turkish state — via both legitimate and illegitimate means. In the end, the encounter with Turkish president’s personal objectives eventually led to its subordination   by   the   Erdoğan   regime   and   the   rewriting   ofTurkish   history   by instrumentaliseing the narrative of ‘FETÖ’.3 In order to do so, we will observe the origins of the Gülen Movement followed by Gülen’s and the Movement’s ideology. Afterwards, we will scrutinise the inner dynamics of the Movement especially regarding the shift in its philosophy towards the end of 1990s. We will conclude by introducing a brief account of the relations between the Gülen Movement and the AKP, specifically about how Gülen Movement has become the greatest foe of the Turkish state.



The Origins of the Movement

When discovering the history of the Gülen Movement, we have to understand the legacy of Said Nursî (1887-1960), whom his adherents refer to as ‘Üstad’ (The Master). Originallya KurdfromthevillageofNurs,  Nursî  wasthefounderoftheNur(Light) movement, and had written an extensive commentary on the Quran which is known as Risale-i Nur (A Treatise of Light).

After Nursî’s death, his disciples gathered around some of his appointees and were divided into several factions. Although he never met Said Nursî in person, Fethullah Gülen was once close to the orthodox Nur. Gülen managed to found his own circle as a popular preacher and was eventually marginalised from the rest of Nurcus (a follower of Nursî is called a Nurcu). Although Gülen and his followers cannot be regarded as simply Nurcus as the some would claim to be, they are still heavily influenced by Nursî’s teachings. This is the reason why Yavuz (1999) describes Gülen as ‘neo-Nurcu’. It is important to see the 3 major reasons that caused a dichotomy between the contemporary Nurcus and the Gülenists alongside with the features taken from Nursî’s teachings in order to observe the distinct characteristics of the Gülen movement and better understand its ideology.

The first is that the Nur movement has always distanced itself from politics, in fact most Nurcus have emphasised on Nursî’s alleged apolitical heritage. They urged Gülenists not to engage in politics, especially against another Muslim contender, i.e the AKP. However, it is not true that Nursî had an apolitical career. Indeed, his life was marked by political activism. Hewasadissidentof AbdulHamidII,  thedespoticruleroftheOttomanEmpire.  He campaigned for parliamentary democracy and an Ottoman constitution and for this reason he was imprisoned by the Sultan’s regime. Nursî briefly joined the revolutionary Young Turks but left it after seeing their flaws. During the Russian invasion of Eastern Turkey in WWI, he led volunteer troops from the Kurdish territories. He was later captured and held captive in Russia. After the proclamation of the Republic, he became an opponent of state-imposed rigid secularism which resembles the French Laicité. Even its name comes from French: Laiklik.

In 1925 he started to write the Risale-i Nur, a work dealing with questions about notions like destiny, death, and the purpose and meaning of life. He did not seek to explain how one should live by the orders of divine revelation, as many Islamic jurists and preachers did before him, but he was more interested in the why questions. Risale-i Nur proved to be very influential for all mainstream Muslims in Turkey, not just for the Nur and the Gülenists.

One of the most striking details about Nursî’s teaching is his campaign for dialogue between different faiths. He believed that the struggle of the future was was not going to be between, say, Muslims, Christians and Jews. He warned against the tide of materialism and state-imposed atheism, and urged the faithful to deploy against the trends that promoted them: namely, communism. He even wrote a letter to the Pope Pius XII urging an alliance between Christians and Muslims against communism, which according to him threatened both faiths.

Nursî was later exiled by the single-party regime for countering Laiklik, and he spent his final years in various remote Anatolian villages with his disciples who made copies of the Risale and preached it. He died in 1960 in Urfa Province. After the burial, his grave was destroyed by the putschists of 1960 coup d’état and his remains were either destroyed or transferred to a secret location.

Along with the apolitical feature of the contemporary Nurcus, another reason of the Gülenist-Nurcu divide was the abbreviation of the Risale by the Gülenists. Nursî wrote the RisaleinOttomanTurkish,  thereforemuchthecontentremainsincomprehensiblefor ordinary Turks today. Gülenists hold that if its language was to be ‘purified’ i.e adjusted to Modern Turkish, more people would be able to understand it. As the Nurcus attributed a certain holiness to Nursî and his work, Gülenists’ attempts were condemned and the abbreviation was seen as an act of treason. Nurcus defend that some words and expressions in Arabic and Farsi have no equivalents in modern Turkish, and what the Gülenists did would reduce the Risale into a simple work.

Lastly, the divide sharpened after the commencement of the fight between the AKP and the Gülenists in 2013. Nurcus reminded Gülenists about Nursî’s warnings about insurrection against the state and the dangers of ‘anarchy’. Since the coup d’état attempt of July 2016, Nurcus wish to distance themselves from the Gülenists even more desperately, claiming that Gülenists have nothing to do with the Nurcu tradition.



Gülenist Ideology

If the Gülen Movement is distinct from the Nurcu tradition that it is oftenly associated with, then what remains ideologically to the Movement beyond the limited influence of Nursî? As mentioned by Bilici (2016), Gülen Movement has three main characteristics that are the cult leadership of Gülen, Turkish nationalism and a desire to take over the Turkish state. These three characteristics make the Movement distinct in the sense that it manages to blend different elements from different thoughts, all of which will be analysed in relation to their role in Gülenist ideology.

Gülen Movement is not an Islamic tariqa (order) but refers to itself as Cemaat (community) which is a notion that does not necessarily carry Islamic connotations. Sufis, who were popular in Anatolia, were much like the Christian hermits who isolated themselves from the society and dedicated their lives to worshipping God alone. According to those monastics, engaging in worldly matters was a distraction from the real mission of creation which is to constantly reminding oneself of God’s existence and getting closer to him. Although there are some Sufi elements in the ideology of Gülen Movement, in terms of their views on this world vis-a-vis the afterlife, there are profound differences. Gülen does not ignore the importance of spirituality, but insists that “serving God and serving the world are not two mutually exclusive duties” (Sunier, 2014: 2205). Spirituality is valuable only if it manages to coexist with an active social life, since the awayness from the sins of society will reinforce a spiritual way of life perforce. Gülen supports the idea that one must go through this world and tirelessly work to deserve a satisfactory afterlife and tries to instil his followers with this idea. With his insistence on engaging in economic and social matters, Gülen is usually seen as the commencer of some sort of Protestant revolution within Islam (Barton & Weller & Yilmaz, 2013: 103). He calls this effort ‘Hizmet’, which is a timeless mission of contributing actively for the good of the society and ultimately of humanity. Alongside Protestantism, Gülen Movement has been likened to many other teachings. The concept of Hizmet   is   also   likened   to   Tikkun   Olam   in   Judaism,   which   means   ‘repairing   the world’ (Firestone, 2017).

Although the Movement differs from Sufism in forenamed aspects, Gülen feeds from Sufi tradition to provide a spiritual aspect to Hizmet (Fuller, 2014: 154). Islam, according to Gülen, is not a series of rigid rules but a way of life that can be preached through love and tolerance (Koyuncu-Lorasdağı, 2010: 225). In Sufi Islam the loyalty to the sheikh is the most essential tenet. Sheikh is the guide (mürşit) and has absolute authority inside the tariqa. In order to become a disciple (mürid), one must submit himself to the authority of the Sheikh which inevitably produces a cult of personality. Even though Gülen is not a sheikh and his movement is far from a tariqa, the feature of cult personality present in tariqas is also central for the Gülen Movement: Fethullah Gülen is referred to as Hocaefendi (the master teacher) and openly criticising Gülen is a taboo since his personality is dear to many and his teachings are the basis of those people’s ideology. This is apparent from people attributing utmost value to his sermons that serve as a tool of communication between him and his followers all around the world. Although the organisation of the movement is multi-layer, i.e people who belong to the Movement do not necessarily know each other, the binding force is Gülen’s charismatic leadership. After all, the movement is referred to as “the Gülen Movement” in English and (Fethullah) Gülen Cemaati in Turkish.

Therefore his emphasis on Sufism stems from his view that an ‘open Islam’ can only emerge in Turkey which had the necessary cultural inputs, and not in ‘reactionary’ Arab world (Gözaydın, 2009: 1219). In this regard, Gülen’s thought can be described as Turkish nationalist (Sevindi, 1997). However, his nationalism should not be understood in conventional terms. As Kemalism, the ruling ideology in Turkey, was suspicious of each and every religious movement, Gülen had to accommodate the Turkish state by actively proving that he was not aspiring to undermine secularism by subscribing to a nationalist fervour as imposed by the Kemalist state. In other words, Gülen’s Turkish nationalism was a way for him to demonstrate that he was not a radical Islamist as these were seen as two conflicting ideologies. Therefore, especially in the beginning when the movement was nascenting as an organised network, the primary goal of Gülen and his followers was to carry out Hizmet based on their “primary loyalties to the nation” (Turam, 2007: 190).

Gülen’s hometown Erzurum has also deep influences on his (and thus the Movement’s) nationalistic thinking. Since the city has been a border town in the quatro-border region close to Russia, Armenia and Iran, Erzurum had been occupied by all those nations which pushed inhabitantsofthecity(whoarecalled‘Dadaş’)  tobesignificantlymorenationalistic compared to the rest of Turkey. As a term coined by Yavuz (1996), this Dadaş Soul gives priority to the state before Islam, as the city witnessed numerous invasions, namely in 1821 (by Iran); 1828 (by Russia); 1877 (again by Russia) and 1916 (by joint Russian-Armenian forces). It is no surprise that Gülen was a strong supporter of the Turkish state as he deemed Turkey as the potential foothold of a potential Islamic revival. Precisely because of this reason, Gülen had been in extremely good terms with the Turkish state until a brief break in late 1990s and again in 2013 for good. It is ironic that a figure like Gülen who held Turkey so central to his philosophy and mission is now the number one enemy of the Turkish state and is recognised as a terrorist by the government, with 64% of the people believing that Gülen is behind the coup d’état of July 2016 (Bianet, 2016).

The feature of Gülen’s ideology which deems Turkey as the center of an Islamic revival brings with it his will to render his country as powerful as it was in the Ottoman era. Since his childhood, he has envisioned Turkey as a global power. (Koyuncu-Lorasdağı, 2010: 229). This way of thinking of Gülen, brings us to the third essential feature of the Movement that is the desire to take over the Turkish state. This “take-over” is not the idea that Fethullah mandate. It is rather a projection to educate the Turkish youth in order to create a Golden Generation (Altın Nesil) which would eventually become the future leaders of the country and thus the engine of an Islamic renaissance (Sunier, 2014: 2205).



Gülen Movement and its Project for Turkey

This Golden Generation would become an intellectual carrier for an Islamic reform and also the future political, economic and cultural elite who have access to critical positions at state institutions. Although Gülen accepted the Kemalist status quo unlike Islamists   at   that time, he nevertheless found the Kemalist modernisation project unsatisfactory. In modern schools, religion was not a part of the curriculum and as a result of laic indoctrination the educated youth were becoming alien to religious concepts (Koyuncu-Lorasdağı, 2010 226). On the other hand, in traditional religious schools (medrese) only a dogmatic form of religion was being taught and there was no place for modern sciences, let alone philosophy and social studies. Gülen envisaged a modernisation project which would combine modern and religious teaching and offer a solution to the crisis Turkish education was experiencing. Said Nursî, too, had underlined the necessity of teaching religion and sciences together (Jamshed, 2016:641). When referring to the project of an “Islamic Renaissance”, Gülen asserts that it will be carried out by ‘powerful human beings’ whose “heads are equipped with science while their hearts are equipped with faith”. While doing so, Gülen refers to terms used by Nursî before him, that are Fünunu Medeniye (modern sciences) and Ulumi İslamiye (religious knowledge).

Gülen   founded   the   Erzurum   branch   of   ‘The   Foundation   for   Combatting Communism’ (Komünizmle Mücadele Derneği) and became its first director, but he gained nation-wide popularity when he was appointed as an imam to Izmir, a predominantly secular city. Gülen had continuously asserted the need for philanthropic activities in order to help create institutions that would educate the Turkish youth. Gülen urged that the objective of philanthropy must be directed towards the need of education, and not things like building mosques. Indeed, Gülen thought that Turkey had more than enough mosques and said “founding a school is better than a mosque” (Fuller, 2014: 159; Gözaydın 2009: 1219). Izmir eventually became the center of the movement with the first ‘Gülenist school’ being founded there.  It’snamewasYamanlar HighSchool.  Yamanlarprovedtobeoneofthemost successful high schools in Turkey in terms of the percentage of students gaining admission to top universities. Religion played no part in the curriculum, and teachers hoped to become models with their Islamic lifestyle rather than openly preaching any religious idea (Ibid: 160). Many other schools of similar success rates were to be found all around Turkey and then around the world from 1970s until 2016, when the Turkish government closed hundreds of Gülenist schools overnight with ‘state of emergency’ (Olağanüstü Hal) decrees after the failed coup of July 15.

As more and more schools and preparatory institutions (dershane) were opened, their Gülen-inspired graduates were guided by their mentors (known inside the movement as ‘Abi’- elder brother) to fields that were deemed more appropriate for them. Some graduates would end up holding critical posts in state institutions by becoming judges and prosecutors, elite police officers and even soldiers. As more and more Gülenists started to have access to ‘corridors of power’, they were subjected to increased criticism. Secularists claimed that Gülenists were aspiring to take over the Turkish state by situating their ‘militants’ in critical bureaucratic, judicial, and military positions. Gülenists highlighted the legality of these procedures and argued that Hizmet members have as much right as any citizen to hold public posts(Ibid.  177).  Itisalsotruethattherearemanyotherorganisednetworksbeing represented in state institutions such as the Alevis and Kemalists.

Another reason for being the target of criticisms was their alleged secret aspirations. According to sociologist Mücahit Bilici, who studied and observed the Gülen Movement, unlike in other Islamic movements secrecy became a defining feature of the Gülenists (2016). This ‘secret’ nature of the Movement has been subjected to immense criticism: both Islamists and Secularists utilised the term ‘Takiye’ (the belief and practice that it is permissible to lie about your religious affiliation) when describing the Gülenist modus operandi inside the state institutions. This allegation, which stems from the fact that Gülenists lack transparency in their conduct, is arguably one of the reasons why Gülenists are occasionally found to be suspicious and unreliable people who hide their true aspirations (Ibid; Fuller, 2014: 160). Bilici (2016) also claims that this is the precise reason why people are struggling to sympathise with Gülenists who are now being treated inhumanely and unjustly by the Turkish state.


As a result of the Kemalist heritage, Islamic tariqas and congregations were forced to either explicitly oppose the laic state or to remain somewhat closeted and seem apolitical. The latter stream brought with it the need to remain hidden and hold the beliefs and practices secret, as those who opposed to the Turkish laic state were subdued by the ‘Military Tutelage’ (Askeri Vesayet). The Gülen movement followed the second stream, and did not object to the so-called Vesayet that guaranteed Laiklik, thus endorsed the status quo. It is therefore not surprising that Fethullah Gülen had good relations with the State until the 1990s. As a result of Gülen Movement’s accommodation of the Turkish state, Fethullah Gülen had good relations with many political figures such as Bülent Ecevit (PM from the leftist ‘Democratic Left Party’), Süleyman Demirel5, and Turgut Özal (Centre-right PMs and later presidents of Turkey). During the period between 1970s and 1980s, Gülen movement expanded to a great extent, especially during the terms of Turgut Özal (1983-1993). In this period, Gülenists had the chance to ensconce in state institutions in relative ease, and were supported by the state in 1990s when establishing schools around Turkey’s “sphere of influence” i.e Balkans and Central Asia. Gülen’s nationalist fervour was in parallel with liberal Turgut Özal’s pan-Turanists foreign policy (El-Kazaz, 2015: 3). Gülen believed that Turkey must cooperate with the Turkic world as the country’s roots lied there and not increase ties with the Middle East, which was the agenda of Islamists (Sunier, 2014: 2202). This is also the reason why first Gülenist schools around Turkey’s cultural sphere were founded in Central Asian countries instead of Middle Eastern countries (Yavuz, 1999: 590).

Perhaps the most important reason for this support of the Turkish state was the Movement’s stance against global Islamists trend and their image as the bastion of “moderate Islam” (Ilımlı İslam) against the radical threats posed by the events of the era such as the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in 1990s (Gözaydın, 2009. 1218). Gülen was well aware of the global context in which he was playing a role: on the global level, the rise of radical Islam was worrying the West and the idea that there is a ‘clash of civilisations’ (Huntington, 1993) between the Islamic world and the West was circulating widely. By the educated liberal elite, Gülen was seen a figure whose teachings about dialogue and tolerance were compatible with modernity and secularism. He was (and remains) a supporter of Turkey’s bid for EU membership, and keeps sharing the idea that an antagonistic view of the West would alienate Muslims all around the world (El-Kazaz, 2015: 7). Gülen made his views on secularism clear by articulating that a secular state, which guarantees individual liberties with the rule of law, is preferable to an ‘Islamic state’ (Akyol, 2007: 31). Gülen Movement later asserted that “God’s ontological sovereignty is compatible with the political sovereignty of the people”, thus theologically justifying secular rule (Kuru, 2009: 177). As Gülen was openly against the politicisationofIslamandanyformofIslamistagenda,  hewasatoddswithpolitical Islamists in Turkey.

Indeed, the first confrontation between the State and Gülenists occurred during the brief mandate of Islamist Welfare Party (Refah Partisi) and its leader Necmettin Erbakan. Erbakan envisaged a radical and top-down transformation of the Turkish society by utilising state apparatuses. RP’s ideology was pan-Islamism: The party wished to have an economic union withother‘Muslimnations’  andturnawayfromWesternalliancessuchasNATO (Yeğenoğlu, 2012: 193). Perhaps the single most provoking policy was seeking to develop good relations between Iran and Turkey.

The reasons why Erbakan’s RP and Gülen Movement were at odds are obvious: Fethullah Gülen’s vision and the values he upheld were in direct contrast with those of Erbakan. Once Erbakan even said that those who did not vote for him “believed in potato religion” i.e they were disbelievers (Hürriyet, 2011). When a corruption scandal took place concerning Erbakan and his family, Gülen publicly criticised him and questioned him about the allegations. In 28th of February 1997, the laic military staged a coup d’état against Erbakan and toppled the RP. When a memorandum was issued by the military, forcing Erbakan to resign, Gülen made the headlines by urging Erbakan to comply: “You could not [succeed at] governing. Just leave it” (Hürriyet, 1997).

The concept of dialogue became a central feature of Gülen’s teachings as the Movement started to globalise in late 1990s. In 1998, Gülen met with Pope Jean-Paul II in Rome, and talked to him about the necessity of dialogue between faiths. To the utter shock of rivalling Islamists, he described Vatican as a holy city and said that “ [since my] age is quite old, I thought, what if I die in this holy land?” (Hürriyet, 1998). He later met with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople and the Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel (Gözaydın, 2009: 1224). Perhaps most importantly, by conducting such visits he aspired to debunk what he referred to as “the so-called clash of civilisations”. When asked about the reason for his relations with other religions’ notables, Gülen told: “Islam has been a misunderstood religion. Muslims are to blame for this…  An effort might help reduce this misunderstanding to a great extent” (Hürriyet, 1998).

Although Gülen had welcomed the military intervention against Erbakan, he nevertheless moved to the US, in 1999, for political reasons. Although the ‘universalisation’ ofthemovementhadcommencedearlier,  hismovementtotheU.Ssymbolisedthis significant chapter of the Movement which became even more transnational both in thinking and practice. Moreover, the new generation that was educated in Gülenist institutions were arguably adapting to the modern world faster than the Movement itself, meaning that new and younger supporters had a more cosmopolitan worldview instead of a more nationalistic one. Cosmopolitan worldview of new supporters implied that, in the course of time, the Movement would shift it philosophy from conservatism and Turkish nationalism to individual liberties and democracy.

A part from Gülen’s departure to the US and the dynamics between old and new supporters, this shift in the Movement’s philosophy was in part due to the expansion of Gülenist institutions worldwide, as this implied that the Movement had to develop a message that included non-Turkish and non-Muslim followers as well. Fuller (2014) explains that Gülen has expanded his attention from Turkish-Islamic values to “appreciation of common values in human life”. Gülen started to preach that these values are not exclusive to Islam, but are shared between all religions. As a part of this ‘universalisation trend’, Islamic values that were the main source of inspiration for the members of the movement were re-framed as universal values. Fuller goes on to describe Gülenist philosophy as “non-Muslim Islam”, meaning that the values which the Movement upheld “exten[ded] beyond specific Muslim culture” and were focused on achiev[ing] common goals in education, community service, interfaith dialogue, and the advancement of general human welfare” (Ibid: 158). In light of the philosophical and modal transformation that Gülen Movement experienced, Fethullah Gülen’s own words about this are critical:

We all change, dont we? There is no escape from change. By visiting the United States and many European countries, I realised the virtues and the role of religion in these societies. Islam flourishes in America and Europe much better than in many Muslim countries. This means freedom and the rule of law are necessary for personal Islam. Moreover, Islam does not need the state to survive, but rather needs educated and financially rich communities to flourish …” (Akyol, 2007: 31)

The 2000s saw the network of schools growing rapidly with new institutions being founded around the world, including the Middle East, Europe and North America. These selective schools (that identified themselves as ‘Gülen-inspired’ institutions) offered quality education, and in underdeveloped and developing countries, their targeted audience was the countries’ elites. The Gülenist schools had completely secular curricula, and in line with Gülen’s teachings, the teachers were not openly inviting anyone to Islam but rather serving as role models by incorporating Islamic ethics to their daily lives. In that sense, they brought a similar model that they previously experimented in Turkey. Gülenists also founded schools in conflict zones such as Afghanistan and Somalia.6

The fact that Gülen had been living in the US attracted criticism from the Islamists and Kemalistsalike. AccordingtoKemalists,  forexample,  himresidingin Americawasa satisfactory evidence that the Movement was indeed controlled by the CIA and thus was detrimental to Turkey’s national interests. The role of Graham Fuller, the ex-chief of CIA’s

Middle East Bureau, in Gülen’s obtainment of a permanent residency permit was one such widely-circulated matter of controversy. In the meantime, Turkish liberal sand some adherents of the ‘new left’ supported the Gülen Movement as they saw it as a promising alternative to radicalism and indeed an engine that would carry Muslims to democracy. In Turkey, the movement continued to become more andmore influential and organised.



The Rise of AKP: How Did “Hizmet” become “FETÖ”?

The essential question that remains is: No matter how controversial it was, how did this civil society movement that was once some peoples hope for a reform in Islam came to labelled as a terrorist network, and became the greatest enemy of the Turkish state?

In 2002, the AKP won the elections and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan became the prime minister. Erdoğan came from an Islamist background: he was the mayor of Istanbul from Erbakan’s RP. Erdoğan was seen as Erbakan’s protégé, but he proved to be more successful than his mentor. He claimed to have abandoned the Islamist agenda, and promised greater freedoms for every section of society: religious Muslims, non-Muslim minorities, Kurds and even homosexuals. He vowed to liberalise the economy and started a campaign of privatisation. Perhapsmostimportantofallhispromises,  Erdoğan declared war on the “military tutelage” of the ancient laic elite which carried out coups against the popular will in 1960, 1971, 1980 and 1997.

Since 2014, Turkish government intensifies its efforts to force foreign nations to close down Gülen -affiliated institutions. Institutions in Somalia were closed down and like many other school, Afghan- Turk school in Afghanistan is going to be taken over by a government-friendly network.

As Erdoğan succeeded in publicising himself as being sympathetic towards each every group that experienced persecution at the hands of the Kemalist republic, he had the initial support of liberals, conservatives, and even some socialists who thought that Erdoğan’s efforts of democratisation would help Turkey. Erdoğan’s was also on good terms with Gülenists. In fact, Gülen had supported Erdoğan once he got convinced that Erdoğan abandoned Erbakan-style Islamism (Sunier, 2014: 2201). According to many, there was no ideological difference between the AKP and the Gülen Movement and many native and foreign observers described the situation as an ‘alliance’ between the two. Gülen has stated numerous times that the Movement should not be associated with any political party, and the formal activities of the Movement were conducted independently of the state (Fuller, 2014: 177). On the other hand, it would not be rightful to claim that the Gülenists were completely outside public affairs. As the Gülenist network continued to grow during AKP’s mandate, they became over-represented in state institutions, especially in the judiciary and the law enforcement branches (Ibid). Furthermore, many AKP officials (namely the mayor of Ankara, Melih Gökçek) made huge donations to Gülenist institutions, and many of them visited him. 

In 2009, Erdoğan decided to dismantle the Military Tutelage once and for all. The Kemalist military was seen in the public as an obstacle to the democratisation project as its mere existence was seen a threat to the government. In 2007, the military had issued a memorandumagainstthe AKP,  threateningthembecauseHayrunnisaGül,  the wife of presidential candidate Abdullah Gül from the AKP, was wearing a headscarf. Prosecutors who were allegedly linked to Gülen paved the way for the AKP’s subordination of the military by opening court cases against Kemalist soldiers with charges for attempting a coup d’état. Twocontroversialcourtcases,  ErgenekonandBalyoz,  wereessentiallyaimedat destroying the Kemalist presence in Turkish Armed Forces. Erdoğan called himself “the [main] prosecutor” of the cases against Kemalist generals. The Kemalist-secularist branch was purged   from the army and their now-empty posts were to a large extent filled with officers who had Gülenist backgrounds.

Ergenekon and Balyoz cases arguably marked the peak of Gülenist influence in state affairs. The controversy about these cases were stemming from the conception that they were not simply genuine attempts directed towards punishing the criminals inside the army, who allegedly plotted to carry out terror attacks to legitimise a coup d’état against Erdoğan. Needless to say, some of the indictees were indeed criminals. Veli Küçük, for example, was an infamous representative of the Kemalist “deep state” which carried out assassinations against Kurdish, Islamist and Socialist intellectuals in order to create an atmosphere of chaos (Metin, 2016: 49). However, the Gülenist network in the judiciary arguably went too far when regular dissidents of the AKP (and the Gülen Movement, of course) who were later proven to be innocent where punished due to alleged ties with Ergenekon and Balyoz coup plots. Perhaps the best example that can be given when explaining this presumption is the imprisonment   ofAhmet   Şık.   Şık   had   written   a   book   called   “TheArmy   of   the Imam” (İmam’ın Ordusu) in which he uncovered and criticised the Gülenist presence in the state institutions and their role in the agenda-setting processes. His book was banned before even being published, and along with numerous other journalists, Ahmet Şık was imprisoned (BBC Türkçe, 2016). Also, many documents that were presented as evidence in order to jail Kemalist military officials in Balyoz case were later proved to be forgeries. Although Gülen Movement was (and still is) rightfully criticised due to such injustices, one must notice that the of relations between the Movement and AKP deteriorated in parallel with AKP’s increasing authoritarianism and inclination towards political Islam.

Afterdisposingthesecularisttutelage,  Erdoğanrealisedthattheonlyremaining obstacle on the way for him to expand his control was the Gülenist presence in critical state positions. In 2010, the first public confrontation took place between Gülen and Erdoğan. A flotilla called Mavi Marmara, which carried aid for Gaza, was stopped by the Israeli security forces and the the consequent clashes resulted with the death of 9 Turkish civilians (Hürriyet,2010). After the incident Gülen heavily criticised the AKP for utilising this human tragedy for their Islamist agenda. According to Gülen, the Turkish authorities shared the blame because they provoked such a confrontation against Israel for their PR project which was to publicise themselves as the oppressed. Mavi Marmara incident helped AKP a lot in foreign policy, especially with their efforts to assert themselves as the ‘new leader of the Islamic world’. Erdoğan criticised Gülen heavily, and later said “[Remember] what [Gülen] said; ‘they had to ask the permission of authorities’. Who is the authority? Is the it us, or is it their lover in the south [Israel]? If the authority is us, then we gave the permission” (İHH, 2014).

According to Erdoğan, the Gülen Movement constituted a threat for his power due to two reasons: Firstly, the Movement remained as the only independent and powerful Islamic movementthatcouldpotentiallychallengeErdoğan’saspirationtobecomethesole representer of the religious masses. Secondly, apart from the fact that the Movement appealed to many mainstream Muslims in Turkey, it could also become a political danger in the long run as it continued to control critical public institutions.

It is very common to take the issue of dershanes as the starter of the conflict between AKP and Gülen. Erdoğan made his intentions to ban the dershanes, i.e preparatory schools, a significantproportionofwhichbelongedtoGülen-affiliatednetworks,  clearin2013. Dershane had always a significant meaning for the Movement, as it was firstly used by the early followers ofNursî and Gülen to identify places that people gathered to study the Risale-i Nur. The contemporary role of the dershanes was to prepare students for university exams and to provide the Movement with ‘new recruits’. Therefore the closure of dershanes would be a fatal blow to the future of the Movement. After the announcement of the decision, Gülenists started a massive campaign against it. Apart from making their discontent public on TVchannelsandnewspapers(mostnotablySamanyoluandZaman),  manyordinary Gülenists created Twitter accounts and shared their message on online platforms. It was possible to observe the shock in Gülenists as for the first time there was an open dispute with the AKP. 

In late 2013, a series of voice recordings of Erdoğan, his son Bilal and some AKP leaders were uploaded online and commenced the scandalous “Corruption and Bribery Case”. In those voice recordings which came to be known as tapeler (tapes), Erdoğan and his close circle were heard engaging in blatant corruption. Erdoğan’s most aggressive turn took place after the videos went viral and occupied the agenda for months. Erdoğan claimed that the voice recordings were forgeries, blamed Fethullah Gülen as the mastermind behind this ‘operation’,  and described him as“alyingprophet”  (yalancı  peygamber)  and“afake saint” (sahte veli) (CNN Turk, 2014). Erdoğan addressed to the Movement as “a gang of traitors” (ihanet şebekesi) and a “perverted sect outside of Islam” (İslam dışı sapık bir fırka). As a result of the “Bribery and Corruption Case”, 4 AKP ministers were forced to resign.

In 2014, a number of trucks that were carrying arms to Syria were stopped by the Turkish gendarmerie in the southern city of Adana. It was found out that these trucks in fact belonged to the Turkish intelligence agency, MİT. The common perception was that AKP was secretly sending those arms into Syria in order to aid jihadist groups. The prosecutor who ordered the gendarmeries’ operation against the MİT trucks was dismissed (and later arrested along with the gendarmerie commander) due to his alleged ties with Gülen. Erdoğan once again condemned the operation and blamed Gülen for creating a ‘parallel state’ within the Turkish state that aimed to carry out a coup attempt and overthrow the AKP.   A real coup attempt was on its way.

The Movement underwent an existential crisis as their aspirations to ‘take over’ had clashed with those of Erdoğan, who wanted to create an authoritarian, Islamist rule. The following years saw a gradual decline in Gülenist influence and power. Many judges and prosecutors sympathetic towards Gülen were dismissed, Gülenist television networks and newspapers (such as Samanyolu TV, Mehtap TV, Bugün TV, Zaman and Bugün Newspapers and Aksiyon magazine) were shut down via anti-terror laws. In 2015, the Gülen Movement was designated as a terrorist organisation under the name of ‘FETÖ/PDY’ (Pro-Fethullah Terrorist Network / Parallel State Structure) that ‘exploited the religious feelings of people’ in order to ‘take over the country’, which was led by Fethullah Gülen. (Cumhuriyet, 2015). In 2016, the government appointed trustees (kayyım) to many companies and privately-run institutions that were allegedly linked to the Gülen Movement in order to take them over (Rethink Brief, 2016). Gülenist schools were in a burdensome situation as well: since the commencement of the conflict with the AKP their student body dropped significantly, either because parents genuinely took a stand against the Movement or they were too afraid to get labelled. Many of the schools had to downsize as a result of financial difficulties and constant harassment by AKP’s education inspectors.



The Coup and the Purge

In regard to the repressions that the Movement was subjected to, one could argue that the Gülen Movement had all the reasons to try its last chance with such a badly organized and rushed coup-attempt to topple Erdoğan down. However, it can also be put forward that the Movement lacked all the necessities as it was in the most disadvantaged position, maybe ever,  incomparisontoErdoğan.  Eitherway,  thegovernmenthasfailedtoprovideany concrete proof that Gülen was behind this coup. German, Dutch and British intelligence reports assert that although sympathisers of Gülen might have taken part in the coup, it was highly unlikely that Fethullah Gülen has orchestrated the coup as Erdoğan claims (T24, 2017).

After the coup, the government has publicised the demise of the coup as a ‘second war of independence’. The police officers, soldiers and ordinary citizens that were killed by the coup-plotters were declared national heroes. On 20th of July, the government declared State of Emergency in the entire country. This allowed it to create the current situation that was touched upon in the introduction part of this article. Erdoğan infilled the Turkish population with such a hatred against the Gülenists and Gülen himself that people became outwardly violent against anyone who was suspected of feeling any bit of sympathy towards Gülen. Mock-ups of Gülen were hanged in public squares of big cities and people expressed their wishes for the death penalty to be reinstalled and to be executed against Gülenists. Erdoğan said that he was also a supporter of the reinstallation of death penalty and has been trying very hard to convince the American authorities to extradite Gülen back to Turkey.

Whereas many journalists, judges, prosecutors, lawyers, academics and businessmen were put in jail, those who only remained as sympathisers are being turned into what pro- government journalists call “socially dead” people (Medeni Ölü). With no prospect of finding jobs or leaving the country as their passports have been revoked, Gülenists (who now have to pose as ‘ex-Gülenists’) are literally left to perish with hunger. Not to mention that having studied at a Gülen-inspired school, having a bank account at Bank Asya (an affiliate bank) or possessing a book written by the cleric is enough evidence of being a terrorist as of July 15 2016 (The Atlantic, 2017). However, the government’s crackdown has extended well beyond the Gulenists. Leftist activists, Kurdish politicians, and dissenting academics have all been targeted. Under the ongoing emergency law declared immediately after the coup, almost

100,000 people were dismissed from their jobs without trial. More than 47,000 people were imprisonedinrelationwiththecoup.  ThewarextendedbeyondTurkey’sborders,  and Erdoğan is currently utilising all means of the Turkish state in order to force its disadvantaged partners such as Somalia, Azerbaijan and Afghanistan to shut down Gülenist institutions.

To conclude, Gülen Movement which has a rather controversial history in Turkey ended up being subdued by the Erdoğan regime. As a result of insistent attempts by the Turkish government, Gülen movement has been marginalised and alienated from the rest of the Turkish society. As a result of the continuous persecution, members of the Movement have found themselves either in jail or in extremely disadvantaged conditions abroad. This marginalisation can be observed by looking at how the Gülenist discourse against the AKP has transformed from a political one into a theological one. Members of the Movement who emigrated to foreign counties to escape persecution refer to themselves as ‘muhacirun’ and those who had been living abroad call themselves ‘ensar’ — as reference to the emigration the Islamic prophet Muhammed did in 622. Gülen refers to Erdoğan and his supporters as

‘Hypocrites’ (münafıklar) and within Gülenist circles Erdoğan and his supporters are referred to as Yezit ve Avanesi (Yazid and his gang), Tiran (Tyrant) and Zalimler (the Oppressors). Bilici (2016) suggests that the the degree of torture and persecution is so high that Movement might even be marginalised from mainstream Islam to the extent that it might eventually end up as a distinct sect or religion, like the Druze or the Ezidis. What will happen to the movement —both in material and theological sense— after Mr. Gülen is a matter of speculation and a separate study must be devoted to it. Realising the unfortunate turn the Turkish democratisation process took since 2010-11, and the current situation as outlined in the introduction, one might ask “who is the current real threat to Turkish democracy: Gülen or Erdoğan?”








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Rhetoric and Reform: Turkey’s Justice and Development Party and Domestic Instrumentalization of European Accession


Rhetoric and Reform: Turkey’s Justice and Development Party and Domestic Instrumentalization of European Accession

Rhetoric and Reform: Turkey’s Justice and Development Party and Domestic Instrumentalization of European Accession

By Michael keen


    In November 2016, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that Turkey would not seek to join the European Union “at all costs.”  This claim marked a significant departure from the longstanding position of Erdogan and his party, the Justice and Development Party, or AKP.  In fact, the AKP, which was Turkey’s first Islamist party to win an outright parliamentary majority and has governed Turkey for more than a decade, initially came to power in 2002 on a platform of fast tracking Turkey’s European accession bid.  In 2002, Erdogan himself, on hearing that his party had won the election, declared, “Our most urgent issue is the EU, and I will send my colleagues to Europe…We have no time to lose.”  

    For the first several years of the AKP’s time in power, Turkey’s European accession was indeed treated as the government’s most urgent issue.  Ironically, though, the formal opening of accession negotiations between Turkey and the European Union in 2005 marked in many ways the high point of Turkey’s European hopes.  Today, Turkey’s accession to the EU looks more distant than ever, thanks in large part to the increasingly indifferent and even Euroskeptic stance of Erdogan and the AKP.  To understand this seismic shift in the AKP’s EU policy, it is crucial to understand how and why Turkey’s Islamist politicians embraced pro-EU rhetoric even before the founding of the AKP and how, once in power, the AKP consistently used the issue of EU accession to further its domestic political goals.  

    While Turkey’s Islamist political leaders initially deployed the rhetoric of Western values espoused by the European Union in an unsuccessful attempt to avert the court-mandated dissolution of the Welfare Party, the AKP’s predecessor, Islamist leaders came to use the prospect and process of EU accession as tools to reduce the power of their domestic foes, the long-dominant Kemalist establishment.  By the end of 2008, events inside Turkey demonstrated that the balance of power had swung away from the Kemalist establishment and towards the AKP.  This shift in Turkish politics obviated the need for the AKP to use European accession as a domestic political tool, and thereafter, the EU accession process, already on hold because of largely external factors, slowed to a crawl—a stagnation that has lasted to the present.   

     Ever since the founding of the Republic of Turkey in 1922, many Turks have looked westwards.  Modern Turkey’s founding father, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, believed that joining the community of European nations was Turkey’s future and destiny.  Ataturk’s European dream has been echoed by his political heirs, known as Kemalists, throughout Turkey’s century-long history.  For nearly as long as projects of European integration have existed, Turkey has sought to join them.  In 1963, Turkey signed an Association Agreement with the nascent European Economic Community (EEC), a step that bolstered economic ties between the two and was in Turkey’s view the first step to eventual Turkish membership in the EEC.  In 1987, Turkey formally requested to join the EEC, but in 1989, the European Commission refused Turkey’s request on the grounds that Turkey was insufficiently democratic.  The 1989 rejection did not kill Turkey’s European hopes, though.  In 1996, after intense lobbying from both Turkey and the United States, Turkey was admitted into the European Customs Union, paving the way for closer economic integration, and, again, in Ankara’s eyes, future full membership. 

     Despite the decision to admit Turkey into the Customs Union, however, many European leaders still harbored misgivings about Turkey as part of Europe.  Specifically, Turkey’s lack of democracy and poor human rights record were cited as the principle barriers to Turkey’s integration with Europe.  For these reasons, Turkey’s accession process hit a snag in 1997 when the European Council in Luxembourg declared that Turkey still did not meet the criteria for membership.  Again, though, the momentum did not dissipate completely, and in 1998, the European Commission began issuing reports on the outstanding issues standing in the way of Turkey’s accession and Turkey’s progress in addressing those issues, laying out a clear roadmap for Turkey to follow.  In 1999, at its meeting in Helsinki, the European Council reversed its previous decision: Turkey was officially declared a candidate country to what was by then the European Union (EU).

    In the late 1990s, Turkey’s quest for accession to the EU intersected with political Islam.  As part of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s effort to completely break with Turkey’s Ottoman past, the Turkish Republic was established on an aggressively secular basis, and the government suppressed Islam in public life and politics despite the fact that the great majority of the population remained devout, conservative Sunni Muslims.  After Ataturk’s death, his political party, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), carried on his anti-Islam outlook.  Furthermore, the Turkish military quickly appointed itself as the guardian of Ataturk’s legacy, including defending state secularism against threats real and imagined.  Conservative religious Turkish leaders, cognizant of the fact that their views were supported by the majority of Turks, made many attempts to organize political parties and push back against what they saw as the overly Western-oriented and secular state.  However, these efforts were invariably blocked by the power of the Kemalist establishment, headed by the triumvirate of the CHP, the military, and the judiciary.  

    One figure towers above the others in the annals of political Islam in Turkey: Necmettin Erbakan.  In 1969, Erbakan wrote a manifesto known as Millî Görüş (National Outlook) in which he called for Turkey to develop and achieve economic independence within a Muslim context and eschew integration with Europe in favor of embracing its own Muslim history and culture.  The Millî Görüş tract became the ideology for a series of Islamist political parties founded and led by Erbakan from the 1970s to the 1990s.  Erbakan’s activism, however, was Sisyphean: the Kemalist establishment, led by the army and the courts, repeatedly banned the parties he founded on the grounds that they plotted to undermine the secular nature of the state.  His National Order Party, the first overtly Islamist political party in Turkey’s history, was shuttered and banned in 1971, a year after its founding, and its successor, the National Salvation Party, established in 1972, was proscribed following a military coup in 1980.  Erbakan continued his political efforts, though, and in 1983, after the military relinquished power to a civilian government, he founded what would become his most successful party: the Welfare Party (Refah Partisi, or RP).  Although the RP initially garnered only modest electoral success, its share of the vote increased gradually and, in the 1996 election, capitalizing on popular disenchantment with mainstream political parties, the RP won the largest share of votes.  Erbakan managed to form a governing coalition with other parties, and he became the first Islamist prime minister in Turkey’s history.  

    Erbakan’s original Millî Görüş manifesto was anti-European in outlook, and all of his parties opposed Turkey’s closer integration into Europe.  The main line of Islamist criticism was simple: the EU was a group of Christian countries and would never accept a Muslim Turkey into its ranks.  Far better, instead, to pursue closer relations with Turkey’s natural allies—other developing Muslim countries.  From the 1970s to the mid-1990s, Islamist rhetoric on Europe did not significantly change.  Erbakan himself, speaking in 1991, put it most forcefully: “I regard the application of Turkey for the full membership in the [European Community] as a treason to our history, civilization, culture, and history.”  

    After the Welfare Party formed a government and Necmettin Erbakan became prime minister in 1996, anti-EU rhetoric softened, but the sentiment remained.  The RP’s effective foreign policy ombudsman, Abdullah Gul, noted with pride that the RP had been alone among Turkish parties in opposing Turkey’s entry into the European Customs Union in 1995, just before coming to power, and, as party spokesman, Gul continued to characterize the European Union as a “Christian Club.”  The RP government implemented policy to match its rhetoric: Turkey’s progress towards EU accession ground to a halt, and Erbakan founded the Developing Eight Organization for Economic Cooperation, a group of populous Muslim countries, as an alternative to economic ties with the EU.  Domestically, the Welfare Party-led coalition attempted to introduce measures to boost the symbolic standing of Islam in Turkey, such as permitting female government employees to wear Islamic headscarves in government offices. 

    However, when Erbakan’s government, weak to begin with, attempted to loosen restrictions on Islam in society, this, once again, prompted a backlash from the still-dominant Kemalist establishment.  In February 1997, after making its opposition to Erbakan increasingly clear, the military-dominated National Security Council forced Erbakan to sign a document detailing actions to be taken to reduce the Islamization of the country, effectively ending Erbakan’s tenure as prime minister.  Erbakan resigned shortly thereafter, and in 1998, Turkey’s Constitutional Court, which was stacked with Kemalists, banned the Welfare Party entirely for its Islamist activities.  

    The Turkish military’s intervention of February 28, 1997, or the February 28 Process, as the intervention came to be known, triggered an intense period of soul-searching and reflection within the Welfare Party and Turkey’s leading Islamists.  The party’s leadership came to a remarkable conclusion: directly challenging the Kemalist establishment and secular order of the country through the ballot box and the doctrine of Millî Görüş was a dead end.  Instead, the Welfare Party leadership, including Erbakan, decided that a radical shift in tactics was needed: Turkey’s Islamist movement would embrace Europe.  In October 1997, just four months after he was forced to resign, Erbakan declared in a speech, “Now we have become westernists.”

    After decades of opposition, why did Erbakan and the RP leadership suddenly decide to completely reverse their position on Europe, and why was the leadership’s decision to move toward Europe embraced by the party’s rank and file?  Erbakan and the RP leadership saw that moving towards Europe would lead to benefits in the short, medium, and long term.  The movement was confronted with an immediate challenge: after Erbakan was politically crippled in February and forced from power in June 1997, Kemalist state prosecutors lodged a case to ban the Welfare Party entirely from politics.  Lawyers defending the party quickly came to the conclusion that the best legal defense lay in the rhetoric of democracy—or, in other words, the rhetoric of the values of the European Union.  In more concrete terms, after the Constitutional Court duly banned the Welfare Party, its leaders appealed the ruling to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).  Although Turkey ratified the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the treaty from which the ECHR derives its authority, in 1954, Ankara had only accepted the jurisdiction of the ECHR in 1989.  Since then, the ECHR had overturned Turkish court rulings on a variety of cases involving human rights and civil liberties, and the RP leadership hoped that the ECHR would prevent the closure of their party.  The ECHR, though, had other plans: in a rare departure from its standard line on court-mandated party closures, the ECHR upheld the dissolution of the Welfare Party, ruling that “it was reasonable on the part of the state to act as they did in order to protect the electoral system of the state.”  

    Again, the end of the Welfare Party was not the end of Islamist politics.  Shortly before the court dissolved the Welfare Party, one of Erbakan’s friends, anticipating the ruling, founded the Virtue Party (Fazilet Partisi, FP), and all but a handful of the Welfare Party’s members of parliament and leaders quickly joined the new party.  Even though their immediate hopes had been dashed, Turkey’s Islamist leaders found it advantageous to continue their ideological and rhetorical shift towards Europe.  Being pro-Europe meant being pro-reform in Turkey, and, across the political spectrum, the Turkish public was strongly supportive of systematic reform.  The 1990s were a period of economic stagnation and political deadlock, characterized by chronic inflation and a series of weak coalition governments.  By embracing reform, the Islamists sought to reap electoral dividends in the medium term.  

    Finally, the Islamist leadership had long-term reasons to turn towards the European Union.  By this point, the European Union had begun explicitly outlining issues standing between Turkey and accession and rating Turkey’s progress towards resolving these issues.  The overbearing position of the military and courts ranked highly on the EU’s list of objections.  A push towards Europe would weaken the Kemalist establishment that had thwarted the political ambitions of Erbakan’s parties so many times.  More broadly still, the European Union took a much more permissive stance on religious freedom in general than did the Kemalist establishment in Turkey.  Specific reforms aside, a Europeanized Turkey would surely offer more leeway for individual Turks to practice their religion both in the private and public spheres.  This final reason for Islamist leaders’ shift towards the EU was, in fact, quite well known at the time and was reported on in mainstream European media. 

    Erbakan and Welfare Party elites, then, identified a triad of benefits of becoming pro-EU: the short-term hope of avoiding court-mandated party closure, the medium-term promise of electoral dividends due to the general popularity of reforms, and the long-term advantages that would accrue to Islamists from a more open Turkish society.  However, this shift in rhetoric was almost exclusively top-down in nature.  Crucially, in the period between 1997 and 2001, there was a concurrent bottom-up swell within the Islamist ranks that also sought to realign the movement towards the European Union, albeit for different reasons.  In the waning days of the Welfare Party, a minority reformist faction within the party sought to boost intraparty democracy and Europe-oriented human rights reform independent of the ideological change of the group’s leadership.  This wing of the party drew its support not from Millî Görüş ideologues but from a new class of Anatolian businessmen who had benefited from economic liberalization measures enacted since the 1980s.  These businessmen, called collectively the Anatolian Tigers, supported liberal economic policies, human rights and democracy in the public sphere, as well as respect for conservative values in the private sphere.  The reform wing of the party attempted to challenge an old guard candidate in internal Virtue Party elections and, although the challenge was unsuccessful, it showed significant support within the Islamist movement for a pro-Europe party that was less overtly Islamist and focused instead on economic liberalization and political reform.

    In 2001, a Turkish court banned the Virtue Party for being too similar to its predecessor, the Welfare Party.  In the aftermath, the split between the old guard of the Islamist movement, still led by Necmettin Erbakan, and the reformist faction, led by former foreign policy spokesman Abdullah Gul and the ex-mayor of Istanbul, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, became explicit.  Two new Islamist parties were founded out of the Virtue Party.  The Felicity Party became the home of the old guard, while the reformists founded a new party, the Justice and Development Party.  

    On the surface, the early 2000s did not appear to be the ideal time to launch a new political movement.  The political climate following the February 28 Process was still deeply hostile to Islamists, and the ruling coalition government had come together expressly to keep the Virtue Party out of power before it was banned.  However, in other ways, the time was ripe for a new party to burst onto the scene.  The three elections to take place during the 1990s, in 1991, 1995, and 1999, produced no fewer than nine separate governments, all weak coalitions with little ability to implement policy.  Furthermore, identity was politicized to an unprecedented degree, and the vote share of traditional center-left and center-right parties declined precipitously throughout the decade.  By the end of the 1990s, polls showed that only 15% of Turks trusted politicians, whereas more than 40% believed politicians were “liars.”  Turkish voters were ready for a new party to reset Turkish politics.

    In the 2002 parliamentary election, AK’s performance exceeded its founders’ wildest expectations.  During the electoral campaign, the AKP managed to combine the support of the Anatolian Tigers with that of the urban lower-middle class, often recent migrants from the Anatolian countryside.  On the back of this “cross-cultural coalition,” the AK Party won 34% of the national vote, which, thanks to Turkey’s system of parliamentary representation, translated into a whopping 363 of 550 parliamentary seats.  The Felicity Party’s old guard Islamists managed only 2.5% of the vote and no seats in parliament.  

    While the 2002 election was not about Europe specifically, the question of Turkey’s accession played a role in the campaign.  All three of the major parties in the campaign (the AKP, the Kemalist CHP, and the far-right Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP) professed support for European accession in their 2002 election manifestos, but the reasoning behind their support varied significantly.  While the CHP couched support for EU accession in terms of Ataturk’s vision of Europe as Turkey’s natural destiny and the MHP was much warier of the costs of accession, the AKP’s rhetoric emphasized that joining the European Union would flow from major domestic reforms boosting human rights, which were themselves so important that they were necessary and inevitable regardless of EU accession itself.  The AKP’s promises of rights-based reform resonated deeply with Turkish voters.

    True to its word, the AKP made Europeanizing reforms its top priority.  In reality, major reforms had begun before the AKP came to power, with the previous coalition government managing in 2001 to enact major amendments to the constitution in line with European recommendations.  The 2001 amendments strengthened civil liberties and human rights, including notably in the areas of personal liberty, privacy, press freedom, freedom of expression, and the right to a fair trial.  The prior government also passed the first three of nine so-called Harmonization Packages designed to modify Turkey’s laws in accordance with the new constitution and EU law.  The most important aspect of these first Harmonization Packages was the legalization of criticism against the state, though anti-state activities remained illegal.  Additionally, the European Court of Human Rights was given more power to force retrials in Turkey.

    However, while important for setting the stage, these reforms paled in comparison to those enacted by AKP government.  Shortly after the elections that brought the AKP to power, the European Council set the deadline of December 2004 to determine whether Turkey could begin formal accession negotiations, giving the AKP a target for reform.  And reform it did.  Between 2002 and 2004, the AKP pushed through another six Harmonization Packages, as well as further constitutional amendments, in support of Turkey’s EU accession bid.  These reforms brought sweeping changes to the fundamental outlook for human rights and democracy in Turkey.  The rights to freedom of expression, assembly, press, and petition were all strengthened by new laws.  Laws criminalizing criticism of the state were loosened further, terrorism laws, which had often been abused by the government, were weakened, and laws were enacted cracking down on torture and abuses committed by the police and military against suspects in custody.  The death penalty was banned, directly in accordance with EU rules, and greater use of languages other than Turkish in the public sphere was permitted, an issue of great importance to the country’s large Kurdish minority.  Finally, a constitutional amendment passed in 2004 attempted to cement the position of civil liberties and human rights in Turkey by mandating that, in the event of a conflict between Turkish law and international agreements on human rights, the international agreements would take precedence.  

    Notably absent from the AKP’s reform priorities was the place of religion in the public sphere.  Aside from some minor adjustments to laws governing Islamic religious trusts, the AKP chose not to pursue actions designed to challenge the public suppression of religion, dubbed the headscarf issue, despite campaign promises to the contrary.  Instead, the AKP largely left the headscarf issue on the sidelines as private citizens launched court challenges.  However, in 2004, the ECHR ruled against a Turkish woman who challenged her expulsion from the Istanbul University medical school for wearing a headscarf, temporarily settling the debate.  In not directly confronting the Kemalist establishment over the public place of religion, the AKP avoided a backlash from the same forces that doomed every previous Islamist foray into politics.

    Despite the lack of religious reforms, though, the AKP used EU reforms to strengthen its domestic position by specifically targeting the institutional power of the Kemalist establishment.  The very first Harmonization Package passed by the AK government made it more difficult for the Constitutional Court to ban political parties, requiring a three-fifths majority rather than a simple majority.  Given the fact that all of the AKP’s Islamist predecessors met their end at the hands of the Constitutional Court, the significance of this reform was obvious.  The Seventh Harmonization Package, passed in August 2003, struck a blow against the institutional power of the military in the judiciary and over the civilian government.  On the judicial front, the Seventh Harmonization Package mandated that civilians could not be tried in military courts in times of peace.  More importantly, the Seventh Harmonization Package slashed the powers of the National Security Council.  Under the new rules, the National Security Council met less frequently, more civilians were appointed to it, growing to outnumber military figures, the powers of the Secretary General of the Council were sharply reduced, and the proceedings of the Council were made public.  These reforms would have been particularly poignant to many AK members: it was at the meeting of the National Security Council on February 28, 1997 that the military hamstrung Prime Minister Erbakan’s power.  Finally, the constitutional amendment of 2004 abolished State Security Courts, bodies used by the military to try suspects under lax conditions of due process, and removed the military’s representation in the Ministry of Education.

    Why did the military and Kemalist establishment not push back against the AKP’s reforms chipping away at their power?  First, the military would have had to go directly against overwhelming Turkish public opinion.  The AKP’s Europeanizing reforms were wildly popular domestically, and support for Turkish entry into the EU reached all-time highs.  Polls showed that Turkish public support for entering the EU, already a majority since 1996, surged after the AKP was elected, reaching above 70% between 2002 and 2004.  The AKP was particularly adept at rallying support for the EU among its own voting base.  By 2003, just a year after AK came to power and a few short years after Islamist leaders were denouncing the EU as a Christian club, polls showed that religion was not correlated with EU support among Turks.  The AKP government both created and benefited from public support for EU accession.  Second, the military was itself split over the reforms.  A faction within the military, led by the country’s highest-ranking general, supported EU accession and understood that the military accepting a reduced role in politics was a necessary concession.  On the other side, hardline Kemalist generals in some service branches opposed the reforms, seeing them as excessively burdensome to the military and not justifiable, even with the reward of EU membership.  Within the military, the reformist faction won out, eventually forcing many of the staunchest Kemalists into retirement.  While relations between the military and the AKP government were hardly rosy, as long as the AKP stuck to general democratizing EU-oriented reforms, not the headscarf issue, the military did not intervene.

    The December 2004 deadline set by the European Council to review Turkey’s accession bid arrived, and the result was favorable to Turkey: Turkey would be allowed to begin formal accession negotiations in October 2005.  Accession negotiations duly began, and Turkey began the process of opening negotiations on the 35 chapters of the body of EU law.  It seemed that Turkey was on the verge of finally entering the European Union.

    Shortly after the start of accession negotiations, though, Turkey’s EU bid ran into serious obstacles.  Unlike previous obstacles, however, which were largely a product of domestic Turkish issues, the primary roadblocks after the start of formal accession negotiations originated outside Turkey.  The first arose from the dispute over Cyprus.  The island, home to both ethnic Greek and Turkish populations, had been effectively split between Greek-majority and Turkish-majority areas since 1974, when the Turkish military intervened following a coup by Greek Cypriots hoping to annex the entire island to Greece.  For the previous 30 years, Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders had been unable to come to an agreement about reunifying the island and, in 2004, a major diplomatic initiative sponsored by the United Nations, the Annan Plan, failed.  The prospect of EU membership played a major role in moderating the Turkish government’s Cyprus policy: before 2004, the Turkish government was seen as the primary obstacle to a resolution of the Cyprus stalemate, but the AKP government induced Turkish Cypriots to support the Annan Plan in a referendum.  Ironically, though, the EU was also largely responsible for poisoning the Annan Plan: by admitting the ethnic Greek-dominated Republic of Cyprus in 2004, the EU created disincentives for Greek Cypriots to accept the compromises of the Annan Plan, and Greek Cypriot voters killed the plan in the 2004 referendum.  The failure of the Annan Plan and the fact that Cyprus, as an EU member, had veto power over Turkey’s entry soon dealt a severe blow to accession negotiations.  In 2006, Cyprus formally blocked six of the 35 chapters Turkey hoped to complete.  

    In addition to the Cyprus stalemate, other European politics contributed to the slowing of Turkey’s momentum.  Several European leaders, including Angela Merkel of Germany, suggested that, for cultural reasons, Turkey did not belong in the EU and suggested that Turkey be given a special form of partnership short of full membership instead.  In France, conservative leader Nicolas Sarkozy was even more vociferous in his opposition to Turkey joining the EU.  In December 2006, as a candidate for the French presidency, Sarkozy declared his opposition to Turkey’s entry, and after Sarkozy won the French presidential election in July 2007, his opposition to Turkey became France’s official policy.  France blocked a further five chapters.  

    Events in Turkey did not stand still as the EU debated Turkish membership.  In 2007, Turkey descended into the first of several political crises.  The crisis was precipitated by the fact that the term of Turkey’s president, Ahmet Necdet Sezer, was set to expire in May 2007.  Sezer, a Kemalist, had been in office since 2000, and the AKP sought to elect one of their own to replace him.  The CHP and the military objected: the wife of the AKP’s choice, foreign minister Abdullah Gul, wore a headscarf, and the presidency was seen as the last bastion of the government not under Islamist control.  The CHP employed a trick of dubious legality, boycotting the presidential vote to deny parliament a quorum, to block Gul’s election.  On April 27, the military responded to the confusion by posting a statement on its website in which it threatened to use its “legal powers” to safeguard the secular nature of the Turkish Republic.  Given the military’s history, the statement, which came to be known as the e-memorandum, was interpreted as a thinly veiled coup threat.  On May 1, the Constitutional Court, packed with Kemalist judges, ruled that Abdullah Gul had not received sufficient parliamentary support and could not become president.  Constitutional and political wrangling continued for several months without breaking the stalemate, and the expiration date of Sezer’s term passed.  Eventually, the AKP government decided there was only one path forward: call for snap elections to seek a popular mandate for Gul’s election to the presidency.  The date was set for July 22, 2007.

    In the 2007 elections, the AKP won a smashing victory, increasing its share to 46.5% of the total vote.  Because of Turkey’s system of parliamentary allocation, the AKP actually lost seats in parliament, but it retained a solid majority.  The voters having clearly spoken, a month later Abdullah Gul was elected president through a simple majority parliamentary vote with minimal fuss.  The military did not intervene: by 2007, even it could not go directly against such a clear expression of public opinion, though it did support mass protests against the AKP.

    Although the presidential crisis was the main issue of the 2007 election, it was not the only issue.  The question of Europe again played a role.  Although domestic support for joining the EU had fallen since 2005 in response to perceptions that Turkey was being forced to adhere to double standards in its accession process, a majority of Turks still supported EU entry.  Moreover, the fact that the AKP had been the party in government implementing EU reforms meant that it was identified in the eyes of voters as the party of the EU.  In fact, the AKP’s pro-EU stance effectively forced the opposition parties, the CHP and MHP, to adopt more strongly anti-EU positions, even to their electoral disadvantage.  In the immediate aftermath of the elections, some Turkish political commentators directly addressed the role of the AKP’s pro-EU stance in delivering electoral victory.

    Having won the 2007 elections, elected its candidate as president, and survived a coup threat, the AKP was stronger than ever.  Its newfound strength gave it the confidence to further push its agenda, including on the question of religion in public space.  In February 2008, having planned its move for months, the AKP-dominated parliament voted to amend the constitution to lift a ban on students in state universities wearing headscarves.  The next month, in response, a public prosecutor filed a case against the AKP, accusing it of becoming a focus of unconstitutional anti-secular activities.  The prosecutor sought to have the party shuttered and 71 of its leading members banned from politics for five years.  Suddenly, the AKP was on trial for its survival.

    For the next three months, Turkish politics were at a standstill.  The Constitutional Court had never banned a ruling party before, let alone a party with such a strong electoral mandate.  Nevertheless, eight of the 11 judges of the Constitutional Court had been appointed by President Sezer, were considered staunch Kemalists, and had recently voted to block Abdullah Gul’s election as president.  

    The court’s ruling finally came in July.  The verdict was handed down: the AKP was found guilty of becoming a center for anti-secular activities, but the judges stopped short of banning the party entirely.  Instead, a monetary fine was levied against the party.  In some ways, the ruling was a compromise: the judges issued a warning to the AKP to restrain its supposedly anti-secular activities without plunging Turkish politics into total crisis.  However, the ruling was largely a victory for the AKP:  the Kemalists in the judiciary had taken their best shot at the party and failed to bring it down.

    While the court’s ruling may have appeared to be entirely a domestic Turkish issue, it was deeply influenced by the AKP’s stance on Europe.  European officials made it clear that they preferred to see the AKP remain open and avoid the political turmoil that its banning would have caused.  After the ruling, one member of the European Parliament stated, “There is a great sense of relief among the Europeans.”  In addition to European pressure behind the scenes, the reforms enacted by the AKP in the name of European accession saved the party.  In the ruling, a majority of the justices of the court, six of 11, voted to ban the AKP entirely.  However, the Harmonization Packages passed by the AKP in 2004 amended the constitution to require a three-fifths majority of the court, or seven votes, in order to ban a political party.  Under the old rules, the AKP would have been shuttered, but thanks to its own actions to weaken the Kemalist judiciary, carried out in the name of Europe, the AKP survived.

     The AKP emerged from the interlocked crises of 2007 and 2008 stronger than ever.  In fact, it effectively reigned supreme over Turkish politics.  With the so-called e-memorandum in April 2007, the Turkish military tried and failed to restrain the AKP.  It failed largely because the military was, thanks to the efforts of pro-EU reformists, no longer quite so ardent in its Kemalist views.  The parliamentary opposition and Constitutional Court attempted to block Gul’s election to the presidency, but this challenge was brushed aside thanks to the AKP’s crushing victory at the polls in the 2007 snap elections—aided by the AKP’s monopolization of pro-EU positions in Turkish politics.  Finally, in 2008, the AKP directly challenged the Kemalists on the headscarf issue, and the Constitutional Court again counterattacked.  The AKP survived, partially thanks to direct European influence and the AKP’s own Europeanizing reforms.  

    Meanwhile, one final event in Turkey solidified the AKP’s position.  In January 2008, as the AKP planned to confront the secular establishment over the headscarf issue, the first of what eventually grew to hundreds of people were arrested, including retired high-ranking military officers.  They were charged with membership in an ultra-nationalist terror organization known as Ergenekon, dedicated to fomenting a coup against the AKP after destabilizing the country through bombings, assassinations, and terror.  Although many of the convictions that resulted from the Ergenekon trials have since been voided, they, along with a subsequent wave of arrests in 2010 that charged many leading officers with having plotted a coup in 2003 (code-named Sledgehammer), further weakened the Turkish military as a political force.  

    More than a decade before, in 1997, Turkey’s leading Islamist politicians decided to realign themselves towards Europe for three reasons: to prevent court closure of their party, to garner votes, and to weaken the Kemalist establishment through Europeanizing reform.  Although the Welfare Party was shuttered regardless in 1998, the events of 2007 and 2008 demonstrated that the Islamists’ turn towards Europe paid off in spades.  Nearly ten years after the crises, the Justice and Development Party remains head and shoulders above all other political forces in Turkey.  Elements within the Turkish military, weakened by the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer trials, attempted a coup in July 2016.  The coup’s failure allowed the AKP to further purge its opponents from the military, the courts, and civil society.  The three-headed Kemalist dragon, topped by the CHP, the military, and the judiciary, seems to have been well and truly slain by the AKP.  

    What of Turkey’s accession to the EU?  After 2008, the momentum lost in the period before the Turkish domestic crises was never regained.  Many complicating factors emerged, including the continuing stalemate in Cyprus, the Eurozone economic crisis spawned by the 2007 housing crash in the United States, and the civil war in Syria, with its accompanying refugee crisis, that erupted in 2011.  Europe has since decried the increasingly authoritarian leadership of the AKP’s chief, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who moved from the prime minister’s office to the Turkish presidency in 2014 after being elected by a resounding margin.  But perhaps a simpler explanation for Turkey’s stalled accession exists: Turkey’s push to join the EU was never reinvigorated because there were no longer any domestic incentives for the AKP to pursue EU membership.  The AKP used the EU to achieve unparalleled domination of Turkish politics and society.  Once it had done so, the domestic benefits of the EU evaporated, while the electoral drawbacks and nationalist counter-arguments to EU accession and further reform remained.  Simply put, the AKP no longer needs the European Union.  Looking ahead from 2017, it is difficult to see any breakthrough in Turkey-EU relations.  The political will to move forward exists in neither Brussels nor Ankara.




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Cafe Culture in Palestine: Annie Whitney


Cafe Culture in Palestine: Annie Whitney

To say that food brings people together would be a gross understatement. Although the adage “you are what you eat” may be frivolous at first glance, it is a crucial reminder that not only does future nurture us physically, but it builds the cultural bases in which ideas take root and identities form.


L’espace public en Algérie


L’espace public en Algérie

S’il existe un élément indispensable à la démocratie, c’est sans nul doute la société civile. Incarnation même de la population nationale, elle est protéiforme, et sa force dépend incontestablement de sa capacité à mobiliser l’espace public. Mais comment peut-elle justement s’y implanter, quand il dépend lui-même si fortement de la volonté des pouvoirs en place ?


Education Today and the Leaders of Tomorrow


Education Today and the Leaders of Tomorrow

Just as the political arena of the country of Iraq has been undeniably tumultuous since the late twentieth century, education of the youth population has been concurrently volatile, leading to the conclusion upon further analysis that the cycles are inextricably linked....


  Marocs linguistiques, Maroc national


Marocs linguistiques, Maroc national

La période 1963-1989 est considérée comme un “Âge d’Or” au Maroc, au cours duquel les étudiants des écoles primaires, secondaires et supérieures recevaient un enseignement pleinement bilingue, en Français et en Arabe –sur le modèle de la Belgique actuelle.


On Turkey: Secularism, Education, and the Battle for Turkish Youth


On Turkey: Secularism, Education, and the Battle for Turkish Youth

In Turkey, what one could consider a fairly religiously homogenous nation with a 90% Muslim majority, a new schism is emerging over new educational reforms that many Turkish citizens see as a threat to the foundation of Turkish society. The battle between the secularists and the AKP, turkey’s ruling conservative party, over religions place in the public sphere has now come to a boiling point in the country’s educational spaces. 


The Gülen Movement


The Gülen Movement

The Gülen movement (Hizmet in Turkish) is a global network active in the educational and humanitarian sector, rooted in the spiritual and humanistic tradition of Islam and inspired by the ideas and activism of Mr. Fethullah Gülen“(official website).  After the fall of the Soviet Union,  Hizmet succeeded to outsource its educational programs mainly to Central Asia, but also to the non-Muslim world – today, more than 1500 Gülen schools are run in more than 140 countries


Transcending Sectarianism in Iraq


Transcending Sectarianism in Iraq

In a previous article, we have analysed the origins of the sectarian divisions in Iraq from a historical perspective. This showed the prominent role played by the successive occupations of Iraq, both British and American, in creating tensions between different groups of the Iraqi society, often made conscious of their particular identities as a response to their oppression by an exclusive ruler. The role of Saddam Hussein in reviving and exacerbating sectarianism in his country was also very significant.


A brief history of education and its role in shaping Identity in Iraq during and post Saddam Hussein


A brief history of education and its role in shaping Identity in Iraq during and post Saddam Hussein

When considering the role of education in any circumstance, we must first acknowledge its crucial role in developing an identity, regardless of geographical location, historical tradition and ethnic diversity. When applied to Iraq however, we must withdraw ourselves from the post-invasion prejudices surrounding the Saddam regime and evaluate the role of education as an independent factor in Iraq’s contemporary identity-crisis.