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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 14-May-07
More than a million secularists rally in Turkey

Web Log - May, 2007

More than a million secularists rally in Turkey

The army may intervene in an approaching major confrontation between secularists and Islamists, as an Islamist President appears certain to be elected in elections to be held on July 22.


Over a million secularist demonstrators wave national flags during anti-Islamist rally in Izmir <font size=-2>(Source: IHT)</font>
Over a million secularist demonstrators wave national flags during anti-Islamist rally in Izmir (Source: IHT)

You may recall, from the last time I wrote about this subject, a month ago, that there was supposed to be a May 16 Parliamentary election for President in Turkey.

Well, that election isn't going to happen.

The Islamist AK Party holds most of the seats in Parliament, and its leader, Recep Tayip Erdogan, is Prime Minister. The only major office still held by one of the secular (non-Islamist) parties is the Presidency. It appeared that Erdogan would become President, and another person from AK would become Premier, leaving AK in complete control of the government.

Because of widespread opposition to a totally AKP-controlled government, Erdogan agreed that he would not run President, and that the AK Party would put up a "compromise" candidate -- Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul.

However, the people who opposed Erdogan also opposed Gul, so nothing was really changed.

You may recall that one of the issues that secularists raised about Erdogan is that his wife wears a headscarf; Erdogan's opponents took that as a signal of a secret Islamist agenda.

Well, it turns out that Gul's wife and daughter also wear headscarves, so the secularists aren't happy.

And then a top Army official made a statement that the Army would not tolerate a non-secular government. The army has overthrown civilian governments before, but they have the respect of many Turks because the army always turned the government back to civilian control fairly quickly. But the threat of a new army coup is not pleasant.

And so, secularist MPs boycotted sessions of Parliament holding preliminary elections, so there were no preliminary elections. And without preliminary elections, there can't be a final election on May 16.

On Thursday, the Parliament voted to change all the rules. The Parliament will no longer elect the President. Instead, there will be a nationwide election on July 22 that will elect the entire Parliament AND the new President.

During the last month, there have been three mass protests against the threat of an AKP-headed government. The latest occurred in Izmir, as the picture at the beginning of this article shows. By some estimates, 1.5 million people traveled to Izmir to take part in the demonstrations. That number of people certainly captures my attention since, if they got angry, a major civil war could result.

The AK Party is not very popular in the big cities, but it is very popular in the countryside, and polls show that AKP is likely to win BOTH the Parliament and Presidency on July 22.

What will happen then? How will those millions of secularist demonstrators react when their worst fears are realized? Will the Army intervene? This all remains to be seen in the next couple of months.

----------------

You may think that all this stuff about headscarves is something of a joke, but this is a REALLY BIG DEAL in Turkey.

As I discussed last time, Turkey's last crisis war was the destruction of the (Muslim) Ottoman Empire immediately following World War I. The country's direction for decades had been to develop a new Turkish culture that was distinctly different from the previous Ottoman/Muslim culture.

When Kemal Ataturk, founded the Turkish republic in the 1920s, he ended the Caliphate in Istanbul, and discarded all vestiges of Islamic identity. Thus, it became illegal to wear headscarves in public buildings, and this continues to be the case today.

As the generations pass after the resolution of a crisis war, all the rules and compromises that were set up begin to unravel. This unraveling can take many forms; some things are simply forgotten, and other things become sources of conflict.

There are many examples of these kinds of conflicts in the world today:

In all of these countries, the unraveling of the rules adopted after the last crisis war, designed to prevent a new crisis war, create political conflicts, and sometimes violent conflicts. People want a set of rules that work, and when all the old rules stop working, people get anxious and scared.

In Turkey, the old rules called for creation of secular state -- separating shrine from state -- and discarding all vestiges of the old relationships that intertwined Turkey's government with the Muslim religion. Headscarves were forbidden in schools and public buildings for the same reason that American courts sometimes forbid Christian symbols in American schools and public buildings. The appearance of such symbols is considered a violation of the separation of Church and State.

But just as Christians object to what they see as discrimination against Christians, Muslims in Turkey see the laws against headscarves in public buildings as discrimination against Muslims.

But while the level of conflict is still fairly mild in America, it's really heating up in Turkey, as shown by Sunday's demonstration with over a million people.

What Turkey is dealing with right now is not just another election; it's an issue that goes to the core of what Turkey is.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, Turkey is overdue for a new crisis war. Turkey's traditional enemies have mostly been with the Orthodox Christians, especially the Armenians and the Russians. We may have an idea within the next couple of months what direction that crisis war is going to take. (14-May-07) Permanent Link
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