What lies ahead for nationalist Turkey after the elections?


Friday, July 13, 2007 – Turkish Daily News

Orhan Kemal Cengiz

We have a phrase in Turkish,”felaket tellalı,” which can be translated literally into English as”scaremonger.” For the last three months I have been acting like a “felaket tellalı” about the situation in Turkey. Actually not only I but a lot of other columnists and intellectuals are behaving like this as well. Are we exaggerating situations, are we too negative, or are we suffering from the grip of collective neurosis? There might be many things, but I think we all focus on all these negative things to prevent the worst from happening. The other thing is that when the things happen, which we do not want to mention (for sake of not being stigmatized as paranoid or as conspiracy theorists), most of the time it is too late to react against them. For some, the Santoro, Dink and Malatya murders came as “big surprises,” but actually they were not! Before these incidents happened there had been many reactions towards what these victims represented in the Turkish society, but for most people these signs were invisible! We all have our own “selective perception,” and we tend to ignore the “signs” if they do not indicate an immediate danger for us.

There have been operations against some neo-fascist “civil society” organizations in Turkey for a while. We have known of these organizations and their connections for some time. They take oaths on guns, declare they know all “traitors,” and keep long lists of these people. In terms of their ideology and world view, these organizations are quite similar to the neo-fascist and skinhead movements in Europe. But have you ever heard of any of these neo-fascist organizations in Europe being set up and run by retired high-ranking army officers? This is happening in Turkey now. A retired captain was caught in a home with 27 hand grenades in his possession. And we continue our lives as if these things are not happening in Turkey. We can only see the tip of the iceberg. Even this small part of the picture is quite scary. These organizations have long been working in cities like Mersin and İzmir which received many Kurdish migrants from the Southeast. Obviously they are trying to prompt an open conflict, a kind of civil war, between Turkish and Kurdish people. They are trying to exploit the tension which has long existed on this territory owing to the armed conflict between the PKK and Turkish military forces.

Nationalism has been rising for such a long time. Most people are sensitive, quite agitated, and very angry. Ready to lynch, they have been lynching “others” who they regard as “enemies.” And this negative emotional build up has never stopped-ropes thrown to the crowds to symbolize Abdullah Ocalan’s hanging; political parties’ election campaigns revolving mostly around nationalism and nationalistic sentiments.

I am afraid we will enter a new phase in this endlessly increasing nationalist hysteria. With the MHP-CHP on one hand and the independent nationalist Kurdish MPs on the other, the newly elected Turkish Parliament may be the new center of conflict. Nationalists (Turks and Kurds) live in their own world, talk to their own people, and increase the volume of their nationalist rhetoric with every burst of applause they hear. However, in Parliament they will have to listen and see the world through the eyes of the other side. This must be unbearable for some of them. It will be very tense. The Parliament will then turn into a new battle zone. These battles of nerve will of course have their echoes in society. Thirteen years ago Kurdish MPs were taken directly from Parliament into custody and then to prison, where they spent years. I hope the inevitable tension in Parliamentwill not cause the expulsion of the Kurdish MPs once again, which I believe will spell disaster for this country.

In short, Turkish “patriots,” Kurdish “patriots,” “right,” “left”-almost everyone now is contributing to this rising nationalist hysteria. Some have specific goals they want to achieve, and some are doing so because it is now popular. Everyone has a reason. But if this tension turns into an open conflict between Turks and Kurds, then both Turkish and Kurdish fascists will be happy! Others will just be in a deep shock.

The 11th of July was the anniversary of the genocide in Srebrenica in Bosnia. Maybe we should take all the nationalist Turks and Kurds to Bosnia to show them what the pinnacle of nationalist fervor looks like. Maybe we should do this to prevent there currence of history. The holes in the walls and the pain in the face of people will remind them what happened right in the middle of Europe, what happened to the prosperous Yugoslavia which was so close to Europe before going into pieces! Once there was a country called Yugoslavia! I stand in deep respect for the victims of the genocide in Srebrenica, hoping that their tragedy taught something to everyone in the world!