Who is escalating tensions?

Prof. Mumtazer Turkone
Prof. Mumtazer Turkone


Date posted: May 26, 2014

MÜMTAZER TÜRKÖNE

While Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was addressing 20,000 people in Cologne, 60,000 people were allegedly outside protesting him.

Yet public surveys show that 61 percent of Turks in Germany support Erdoğan. There is ongoing tension between organized and silent majorities over Erdoğan in Turkey and abroad.  And there are always developments keeping this tension alive.

The death of an Alevi person last week in front of a cemevi (an Alevi place of worship), allegedly at the hands of the police, was a fairly provocative incident. But in attempting to identify the sources of the conflict, it is enough to recall the roles of political parties in the incidents.

With the exception of Gezi protests last year, there have not been any major incidents in domestic politics that would escalate tensions. The course of the protests after the Soma tragedy shows that members of opposition parties, who should be able to keep the pressure strong, are not influential. The incident in Okmeydanı is very important, but social groups like Alevis, who are unable to raise their voice loudly, are aware that they will be most hurt by such incidents. Messages and statements calling for responsible action are products of these experiences of oppression. Marginal groups try to become influential only when mainstream segments take action, and they are extremely criminalized because they are viewed suspiciously all the time.

And there are no external problems that would exacerbate the high tension in Turkey; the prime minister’s showdown in Cologne reveals that nobody cares about him despite the fact that he delivers harsh messages to everybody. So what is the reason for this tension and anger?

The Gezi protesters pulled the trigger, but it was the prime minister who has constantly escalated tensions; Erdoğan has been able to cover up charges against him revealed in the Dec. 17 bribery and corruption operation and has also been able to consolidate his party’s support base by polarizing different segments of society from one another.

This is such a remarkable achievement. We saw that 301 workers died in Soma but nobody is questioning the government’s direct role in this incident. Why? Because the prime minister is waging a war against those who criticize him rather than defending himself; he has managed to channel the people’s anger onto his critics.

Speaking to journalists on his way from Cologne to Turkey, the prime minister yet again blamed the Gülen movement for everything. His remarks cannot be taken seriously even by those who pay constant attention to conspiracy theories. He argues that the movement is responsible for everything that goes wrong. This argument has not been proven over the last six months. He refers to this argument to justify a process of purging and reshuffling police officers and other high-level officials, which he has admitted is a “witch-hunt.” Whenever someone questions the government’s performance or flaws in Turkey, the Gülen movement is put under the spotlight. And whenever there is a mass protest, the Gezi figures and Alevis are accused of being behind it.

There is no reason for tension in Turkey other than the harsh style and language of the prime minister. He stages opposition to the minority in an effort to gain the support of the majority. Has he been successful? The March 30 elections show that he has been.

Political normalization in Turkey depends on the end of Erdoğan’s personal warfare. If he is elected president, the new prime minister will have no reason to perpetuate this policy of tension. Instead, the new prime minister will have incentives to further cooperation. It is pretty clear that the reason behind the ongoing tension in Turkey is Erdoğan’s harsh rhetoric.

Source: Todays Zaman , May 26, 2014


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