As Turkey’s foreign policy gets more aggressive by the day, one might wonder what lies ahead. It is unlikely that tensions in the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas will escalate to the point of war. At least that’s what political scientists and commentators claim.
Still, President Erdoğan and his ally, the MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli, as well as their spokesmen continuously castigate foreign enemies – especially when they are embroiled in problems at home.
Their discourse can be summed up in a few sentences:
The West is to blame for Turkey’s economic woes, terrorist activities, and unrest.
All Western states should be treated as enemies of the Turkish Republic, because none of them want to see a prosperous and strong country in the region.
That is why they want to halt Turkey’s progress in every imaginable manner, by criticizing and interfering with its policies and governance.
People can relate to this nationalist discourse, as they harbor an embedded fear of being torn apart. Historians explain this through the fall of the Ottoman Empire and Turkey’s Independence War. The Turkish Republic’s own history of military coups and its ongoing conflict with the PKK have led to the militarization of the country - which is coupled with the underlying Islamic notion of martyrdom.
That discourse is not restricted to the AKP-MHP alliance and its limited ultranationalist and Islamist base.
In fact, such pernicious nationalism and the discourse that pits “us” against “the rest of the world” prevails in all opposition parties, aside from the People’s Democratic Party (HDP). HDP’s representation of the Kurdish political movement and its aim to get PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan freed from jail are not the sole reasons why all of Turkey’s parties distance themselves from it.
HDP supporters – some of whom are urban democrats and liberals – reject the nationalist and militarist discourse. Thus, they are seen as presenting a danger to the nation.
I’ve previously written about the stance on international issues of the main opposition party CHP, like the fact that it provides its consent to military operations in Syria.
İYİ Party, the smaller partner of the opposition bloc National Alliance is openly nationalist. After all, it broke off from MHP.
The opposition’s approach is to avoid getting into a serious conflict with Erdoğan and scare away potential voters. Instead, it patiently awaits the next election.
Meanwhile, people die, thousands are put into jail for nothing, the rule of law, human rights and secularism are undermined and the economy falters as COVID-19 hits harder.
Hundreds of women, thousands of workers die every year while “the nation rises and shines” under the nationalist, populist regime.
To even pronounce the word “peace” became a crime. And even certain colors have become a crime. Here’s one recent example:
Turkey’s broadcasting watchdog RTÜK (High Council of Radio and Television) fined the channel Tele1 on the grounds of terrorist propaganda. Tele1 had broadcasted an ad for the daily newspaper Evrensel in which a girl could be seen holding a headscarf bearing the colors green, yellow and red. A background voice could be heard saying: “The voice of those who want to live together in peace.”
Every day, it becomes harder in Turkey to defend freedoms, human rights as well as peace and justice. As the editor of Gazete Duvar, Ali Topuz puts it: “Telling the truth has become even harder nowadays, because one bloc governs the country. The media are almost totally controlled by it. And that has its effect on the public.”