Books on Turkey
Update No: 132 - (01/06/08)
The Kurdish question
The point is not sufficiently appreciated in the wider world how so much in
Turkey depends upon the Kurds. They make up one fifth of the population - on
some reckoning, given their clandenistinity, one quarter. Officially thirteen
million, their numbers may be much greater in the more-than 70 million
population. Their integration into the Turkish body politic is a top priority.
The omens are not all unfavourable. More than 50% of them, 52% to be precise,
voted for the ruling AKP-led government in mid-2007 elections. The key was that
they really want integration into Turkey and its Western ways, democracy not
least. Kurds are far better-off in Turkey than anywhere else.
The Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK), with its Marxist-Leninist blandishments, is
not so popular, nor its militant wing's advocacy of violence. They have not
helped the cause of the Kurds in thirteen confrontational years that has brought
What has done so is the war in Iraq. This war debouched rapidly into a civil
war, so ineptly was it conducted by Washington and, it has to be said, London.
But there are two beneficiaries all the same, the Kurds and the Marsh Arabs. The
two Kurdish enclaves in Iraq were in constant peril from Saddam - now they are
benefiting from a huge influx of investment from abroad that would have been
most unlikely to have ever materialised with him and his psychopathic sons in
charge in Baghdad. The destruction of the Marsh Arab way of life, an invaluable
resource not just to themselves, but to world civilisation in the age of global
warming, was nipped in the bud.
The AKP is an advocate of moderate Islam
The ruling party in Turkey is an Islamicist affair, which it is proud to
manifest. President Gul's wife disports her headscarf to the outrage of the
It is a very important player on the world stage. It has accepted the secularism
of the Turkish state laid down by Ataturk, a true statesman of the previous
century, so replete with rogues and monsters in power.
It shows that there is a devout, but moderate, wing of Islam, quite compatible
with Western precepts of governance, liberal-democracy to the fore. Its leaders,
Premier Erdogan and President Gul, are certainly pious Muslims, but they also
are certainly democrats, devoted to the Western way forward.
They even advocated that Turkey allow the US to deploy its troops from its
southern border into Iraq in the 2003 invasion of the country. They were
thwarted by the parliament in March of that year, from which one can draw at
least two conclusions:-
A) Turkey is a democracy in fact - more indeed than the so-called 'mother of
parliaments,' Westminster, which supinely backed the operation without a proper
debate, under the dictat of the governing executive, despite the fact that the
majority of MPs in all parties had the gravest misgivings about it.
B) The decision was quite right. Democracy is vindicated. The Turks, if they had
permitted US deployment from their territory would almost certainly have been
dragged into the dire conflict themselves.
They were, as it so happens, when responding recently to PKK incursions from
Northern Iraqi bases into Turkey. But they behaved tolerably after sending
limited forces across the border, and swiftly withdrew after realising their
tactical objectives against the PKK militants.
There are moderates even within the PKK. These are the people the AKP needs to
engage with. The key figure here is Ocalan, the PKK leader, who has been
advocating peaceful means from his prison cell, incarcerated several years ago.
His release would be a mighty blow for peace.
A domestic crisis
Turkey was plunged into political turmoil in March when the Constitutional Court
agreed to consider a case by a chief prosecutor, who seeks the ruling AKP's
closure. Its predecessor, the Welfare Party, was closed in 2001 as breaching the
secularism of the Turkish polity, which did not prevent it just re-opening under
another name, with the same faces in charge, and winning subsequent elections
and re-election last year.
Turkish courts on constitutional grounds, have banned more than 20 parties over
the years on allegations of Islamist or Kurdish separatist agendas. There is a
simmering row in Turkey longstanding, going back to Ataturk, over the roles in
national politics of religion and secularism, in support of the latter tradition
the armed forces and the judiciary see themselves as the custodians. Its ruling
AK Party, rooted in moderate Islam, saw its isolation deepen on May 22 when a
former ally accused it of waging jihad, or holy war, against the country's
The opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which in the past has often
supported the government on policy moves, said the Islamist-rooted AKP was
attacking the legal establishment in its bid to avoid being shut down for
alleged violation of Turkey's secular constitution. 'Instead of defending
themselves on a legitimate basis, the prime minister and the AKP have chosen the
path of showing their political strength and practically declared a jihad
against the judiciary,' MHP leader Devlet Bahceli said in a statement.
'Prime Minister (Tayyip) Erdogan and the AKP have launched a campaign of
illegitimate and immoral attacks, threats and terror, targeting the independent
Turkish judiciary,' he said, calling on President Abdullah Gul to act to restore
harmony. Gul said, according to the state Anatolian news agency, that he would
consider the request.
The nationalist statement underlined the AKP's increased isolation in parliament
in its deepening row with the country's judges. It followed a fierce exchange on
Wednesday between the government and the Court of Appeals, which said political
circles were seeking to influence the judiciary.
Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek responded by saying the court comments were
politically motivated and accused it of trying to bolster legal moves to close
Turkey's financial markets are nervously monitoring the court case and
associated row, fearing the impact of months of political uncertainty. The lira
currency fell earlier in mid-May on fears the ruling party would be closed down.
Turkey's secularist establishment, including elements of the judiciary and army
generals, has long accused the AKP of plotting to erode the republic's
separation of state and religion. The AK Party rejects the accusations.
The chief prosecutor of the Court of Appeals is also calling for 71 AK Party
members, including Gul and Erdogan, to be banned from belonging to a political
party for five years.
Secularists cite a recent amendment to the constitution, lifting a ban on female
university students wearing the Muslim headscarf, as evidence of the party's
efforts to undermine the country's secular system.
The AK Party has presented its preliminary defence to the court and a response
from the prosecutor is expected shortly. Senior AK Party sources told Reuters
that the party was preparing itself for the possibility that the Constitutional
Court may close it down and ban the prime minister from politics. A successor to
AK Party would then be formed, they said. History would just repeat itself.