An internet meme has been circulating on Twitter with a caption from A Haber, the famous pro-government news channel. The meme reads: US: Iran downed the plane; Canada: Iran downed the plane; Iran: we downed the plane; Turkey: the United States downed the plane.
The meme reflected the general sentiment about how the latest developments in and about Iran resonated with many in Turkey.
Iran has always been in some ways an adversary and in other ways a friend to Turkey throughout their history. In contemporary slang, the two could be described as “frenemies.” The border between the old Safavid and Ottoman empires was determined by the Zuhab agreement nearly 500 years ago and has not changed since then. The Safavid and Qajar empires that ruled Persian land were of Turkic origin and spoke Turkish in their palaces. On the other hand, the Ottomans were heavily influenced by Persian language and culture.
The Ottomans would occasionally perceive the Alevi population in Anatolia as potential allies of the Persian Shah; on the Iranian side, the Turkish-speaking population of Iran was perceived as a potential Achilles heel.
One of the first leaders to visit the young Turkish Republic under Ataturk’s rule was the Iranian leader Reza Shah. He spoke Turkish during his visit, and the young Turkey presented him with an opera in Turkish composed specially for him as a manifestation of Turkish-Iranian friendship.
With the arrival of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, relations soured between the two neighbors. “Will Turkey soon be like Iran?” has been one of the most-asked questions by Turkish secularists. From an ideological perspective, the Turkish leftist and secular movements have seen Iran as a potential threat and an adversary, while Turkish Islamists saw the revolution as an inspiration.
The infamous coup d’etat that took place on February 28, 1997 occurred after an al-Quds event in which the Iranian ambassador made a speech and told people not to be afraid of being called fundamentalists in Konya.
In the ‘80s and ‘90s, some Turkish intellectuals like Uğur Mumcu and Ahmet Taner Kışlalı were assassinated in bombings. The Iranian Quds Force was the main suspect, though even today who killed them is unknown.
On January 2, 2020, the United States targeted and killed an Iranian Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani as well as Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the commander of Iran’s Iraqi proxy organization, the PMF. In retaliation, Iran quickly launched a ballistic missile attack on two military bases in Iraq that were also used by the US troops. After the initial attack, one of Iran’s missiles also hit a Ukrainian passenger plane that had taken off from Tehran with 176 civilian passengers.
President Erdoğan called his Iranian counterpart Rouhani to express his condolences, but made sure he did not use the word “martyr” for Soleimani.
This time, while many of the pro-government figures in Turkey were preaching about what sort of a villain Soleimani was, the Turkish secular left was busy describing him as the “Che Guevara of the Middle East.” Though it depends on how one perceives Che Guevara, the comparison was supposed to be a compliment to Soleimani’s legacy.
The main opposition party’s (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu commented on the downed plane a day after the incident. In a live broadcast, Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu said that “the claim that Iran downed the plane is psychological warfare.”
Analysts close to the government were keen on emphasizing the incompetence of the Iranian regime, while most of the analysts sympathetic to the secular left were pointing to the “possibility of a conspiracy against Iran.”
The period after the second Gulf War drew harder lines between different sects in Islam. The Arab Spring and the war in Syria further intensified tensions within the Islamist sphere. Turkish national interests collided with the Iranian interests in Syria, and both are driven by sectarian ambitions. For Turkish Islamists, Iran has not been the exemplary ideal of an Islamist state, but a deviant force.
Ever since the West extended its support to Turkish Islamists in the beginning of the 2000s, the Turkish secular left remained shocked by what they understood as Western “short-sightedness.” The use of the magical word “democracy” allowed the AKP to affirm itself with its international partners, but then over time transform and undermine most if not all of those democratic principles, and ultimately establish one-man rule in Turkey. This trauma has redefined the secular left in Turkey. The movements that build their discourse on Atatürk and his vision have been started to be more suspicious of the West. The idea that Turkey should be seeking allies in the region has been gaining traction among this part of the spectrum.
According to Pew Research Center, Putin is the most popular leader in Turkey. As American imperialism is the common enemy of secular groups, growing Russian influence is not seen as a threat. And in the case of Iran, the hatred and suspicion towards the US seems to draw the Turkish secular left closer to the mullahs. The politics of the region never fails to surprise.
Nobody in their right mind can think that being an opposition party in an autocratic environment is easy. However, one cannot learn how to swim without jumping in the water. Ali Babacan's party DEVA seems to be enjoying the dry land, not taking any risks, at a time when citizens are expecting brave and wise leadership.
At a time when Turkey, just like the rest of the world, is under grave threat from a new, unknown virus, and the state has to indirectly admit that it could soon be unable to pay for the basic needs, it is becoming obvious how costly President Erdoğan's populist megalomania projects are.
The health minister announcing the new numbers every night is creating an illusion of transparency. However, Turkish people are mostly being left in the dark. Little is being shared about the scope of the spread. Meanwhile it seems that President Erdoğan and his son-in-law and the Minister of the Economy see the coronavirus as an opportunity.
Turks on both the left and right of the spectrum have been united by conspiracy theories about the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. After the virus appeared, discourse about the U.S. trying to prevent the development of mighty China spread all over social media. Nationalist, leftist figures writing and speaking about the virus preferred to accuse the West when it came to the outbreak.
It is a fact that the ruling government has an obsession about Taksim square. The square is not only closed to women rallies, but pretty much any rally and gathering. There are though exceptions. One exception had been a group of Syrians celebrating new years with Free Syrian Army flags.
The refugees are not being told the truth by the authorities, Turkish public is not being told the truth either. Everybody is being kept in darkness that leads the way to more resentment and hatred.
Football in Turkey, as in many European countries, is structured around masculinity. Game days are the days when men can act like savages, insult men and women freely, and attack anyone they like — and they don’t face any consequences.
Turkey is still divided by the Gezi protests. Some see the protests as a struggle for freedom that had never happened before in Turkey and remember it with pride, while others detest the memory of the protests. For Erdoğan’s 50 percent, when the state tells you not to do something, you ought not to do it.
In a meeting between Mr Erdoğan and his party’s MPs, some MPs voiced their concerns about Turkish soap operas that they found to be not suitable for Turkish values and culture. According to the reports, Mr. Erdoğan agreed with the MPs and told them he was disturbed as well. When the President voices a concern about a matter, a new decree or law usually follows.
The chaos that occurred after the June 2015 election worked for Erdoğan, but his approval ratings tend to fall when terror attacks or wars halt and people start worrying about the economy. According to Metropoll, the last time Erdoğan’s approval rating was higher than 50 percent was 2018; the economy seems to be taking its toll on Erdoğan.
Up until now, the local businessmen used to support AKP without reservation, and it used to be a win-win situation for both parties. However, this cooperation seems to be fading. When Suriçi Group Platform hosts CHP chair Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, it is a significant development for Turkish politics.
There is the talk of early elections, both on the street and in back rooms. There is an expectation that some change will occur. The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has a more critical part to play in Turkish politics. However, it seems that it won’t be easy for the HDP to keep their traditional voter base satisfied while becoming a more relevant actor in the upcoming political period.
Totalitarian systems usually come up with their own ideal man. Tayyip Erdoğan believes the future of his Turkey lies in İmam Hatip school education. He believes the only way to create his “ideal man” is to educate young Turkish people in line with the strict religious education of the imam hatip schools. As Erdoğan became stronger, so did the imam hatip schools.
President Erdoğan’s military advisor and the founder of the armed group SADAT, recently suggested that Islamic unity will be possible when Mahdi comes. Erdoğan’s military advisor announcing his mission to prepare for Mahdi’s arrival is definitely not a good sign for Turkey’s near future.
Horses tumbling down and breathing their last breaths, while still being harnessed to the carriage has also turned into an everyday scene at the Princes’ Islands of Istanbul. Weak, limping horses trying to pull crowded families up the hills, often looks like a horror scene from a dystopian movie.
Led by Erdoğan, the AKP has been reshaping the secular life of Turks for the last 17 years, bit by bit. The latest in the line of religiously-inspired incidents happened in Adana, a southern Turkish city with a unique character whose people are proud of their city, their type of kabab and their Adana ways.
Last Sunday, women gathered in one of the Istanbul’s busy centers, Kadıköy. Their aim was to protest violence against women and the inaction of the state. However, as usual in recent years in Turkey, the police jumped in and dispersed the crowd, detaining some of the women protesters.
Turkey is now being ruled by an exceptional version of a presidential system. Everything is ultimately decided by the President, with ministries and the legislative branch having a marginal influence. But he also wants citizens to be able to reach the Palace directly. And CIMER is the answer!
Imamoğlu ran his election campaign not on a narrative of fighting, but a narrative of peace. He promised to be inclusive, and he was careful not to target Erdoğan in his speeches. He aimed to grab AKP votes by not targeting Erdoğan. However, now it seems that he is shifting gears.
Gas prices have doubled overnight in Iran. Since Nov. 15, street protests and riots have been spreading. The protests started peacefully, but turned violent fairly quickly. The security forces were relentless: they had no intention of tolerating this public objection to the price increase.
One of the heaviest financial crises in Turkey’s history was in 2001. It first became public symbolically when a salesman threw a cash till at then-Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit. The man threw the giant cash box in front of the cameras as Ecevit was walking into his office. As the till hit the floor and shattered into pieces, the salesman yelled, “We are struggling!” The incident symbolically marked the beginning of the end of the Ecevit era.
The Sevres Syndrome has been a factor that impedes rationality for many Turkish citizens trying to make some sense of global dynamics. In recent years, Turkish-American relations have deteriorated at an unprecedented rate. For many Turks, this was simply another example of hatred against the Turks, this time coming from across the ocean. However, even in the more rational circles in Turkey, it is almost impossible to hear critical analysis concerning Turkey’s responsibility in the failing relationship.
After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, Turks established the Turkish Republic. However, even the issue of what to celebrate proves that Turks have a long road ahead before they feel like a truly united nation that shares similar ideals and prospects for future.
According to Turkish civil law, the party who has the economic advantage in the marriage is to pay for children’s expenses and some expenses of the former spouse. In most cases the economic advantage is with the men, since on the one hand many men do not want their wives to work during the marriage and also social inequalities cause men to be the breadwinners of the families, not the women.