A while ago, Turkey’s president and the head of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said “Turkey has nothing that conflicts with the Taliban’s beliefs.” Let us assess the meaning of this statement from the perspective of Erdoğan’s trajectory, who has somewhat of a double identity.
The fact that Erdoğan sides with a religious group that declares its principle of governance as Sharia has political and legal consequences. Let’s refer to the Turkish Constitution to understand this issue.
The constitution that the President is obliged to protect is based on a core decision: The state of Turkey is a republic. The constitutional decision that established the Republic has grounded the state on four universal principles: democracy, secularism, rule of law and social state.
Therefore, the book to which Turkey is affiliated, and which is expected to hold Turkish people together, is one major political consensus. This consensus and this book were established against the ideology declared by the Taliban, which is against democracy and secularism. The book of the Turkish Republic runs counter to the book of the Taliban.
Thus, this is the perspective in which we will evaluate the political and legal meaning of the words uttered by the President who has taken office according to the norms set by this book, who has been assigned by this book to protect this book.
Political parties, as one can understand from their historic emergence, serve to protect the interests of various social segments. They can advocate their “one book” in a way that does not violate the framework established by the Book of the Republic, and they can express it without invoking violence.
What the Republic is politically open to and closed to can be revealed through democratic debates on the basis of the institutions established by the republic, and the framework of the book can be expanded or contracted by social challenges. This is so because the book of the republic is not sacred; on the contrary, it is dynamic. Therefore, it is necessary, according to this perspective, to evaluate the political and legal consequences of the statement of a party leader, who defends the interests and values of a certain segment of society.
As for our current situation, noting that political life will not be limited to the framework of books, whether sacred or not... The president and the party leader are the same person. In 2017, millions of citizens were excluded and dismissed under the conditions and rules of the state of emergency (OHAL).
This is what our new book declares, which was actually established by a political decision based on accepting otherwise invalid votes as valid votes. Although meticulous theoretical distinctions are trying to be made between the actions of the President as head of state and the actions he performs as the head of a political party, such a distinction has no political meaning.
Therefore, the 2017 amendment in our constitution does not only imply the elimination of the principle of separation of powers. It also implies that the balance among constitutional institutions has been upset in favor of the executive power. This constitutional amendment has also removed (unconstitutionally) the commitment to the book. It can and may pave the way for another book, as in our example, the command of Islam's holy book on millions of people - who may not have religious ties to the state and to other citizens.
Thus, it puts the interests of a party, a segment of society, over everyone else who do not identify with it. We have very concrete examples of this. For example, the only basis for the practices made on behalf of the state regarding the LGBT+s is the holy book of Islam. This has now even been written in the Justice Department’s response to the Constitutional Court. In certain court decisions, there are references to the Koran.
There are compulsory courses in state schools called “The Life of Our Prophet.” The religious vocational high schools (Imam Hatip schools) have become the only schools many children can attend due to the lack of other options in many regions. Members of the armed forces can be described in the state-run television channel as the last army of Islam, not of the republic.
No one is surprised when the president makes his critical statements after Friday prayers. Prayer times can be asked during job interviews for public institutions. What these examples show individually and collectively is that the bond that citizens form with the state and with each other is designed according to the book of a single party. Therefore, the book of the republic has been suspended.
All of this has a political meaning for everyone living in Turkey. Secularism is no longer a principle that we will debate legally under the protection of the book, but the subject of a cause that concerns all segments of our political community. Secularism is the minority’s opposition to the domination of the majority, against the male domination by those who are not male; it is the common denominator of the struggle of the oppressed classes against occupational fatal accidents; it is an attitude against private and religious education. Secularism is the platform for Muslims and non-Muslims to live together equally.
Books that hold societies together are derived from real life. Secularism is not a book-bound principle today, but it is a base, a platform for coexistence to be established through the struggles that life necessitates. It has become a necessity like bread and like water.
My expectation as a citizen from the opposition is that they should not fear advocating secularism. They would not lose any votes because of this. It is essential to advocate secularism for the future of the overwhelming majority of society who do not belong to certain interest groups.