Begin­ning a new arti­cle on Turkey means return­ing to these past few years dur­ing which wars, crimes against human­i­ty, geostrate­gic games, and Occi­den­tal duplic­i­ties have built up an impos­si­ble sit­u­a­tion in the Mid­dle East.

It means con­stant­ly bear­ing in mind this sit­u­a­tion has wound­ed so many in their flesh, at home and else­where, and forced sev­er­al mil­lions into exile, some of whom encoun­tered death on the way.

It also means hav­ing to tear apart the veil of false moder­ni­ty that leads tourits vis­it­ing Istan­bul to say “every­thing is fine.”

We might agree, if by this one means the Bospho­rus has­n’t moved and that the view is still  post­card-per­fect – as long as you avoid the build­ings being put up “for 2023”.

But as we keep encoun­ter­ing in Europe press arti­cles, books and even meet­ings and con­fer­ence about Turkey, inform­ing us the coun­try is “on the way to…”, some day, the ques­tion will have to be raised: “on the way to what?”

My mod­est inten­tion with this arti­cle is to broach, in the usu­al unpre­ten­tioius and dis­or­der­ly fash­ion, a reflec­tion on a top­ic greater experts than I have been study­ing for some 40 years.

Mouthing the word “democ­ra­cy”, some con­sid­er it a kind of imper­iled species on the road to extinc­tion in Turkey. A sort of imper­iled masterpiece…

For me, a leop­ard is a leop­ard, a polar bear is a polar bear, a dodo was a dodo, a bee is a bee, but in Turkey, democ­ra­cy is an unknown species. 

First, let’s set the scene once again

The Turk­ish Repub­lic isn’t quite one hun­dred years old. Even mov­ing back only 40 years, one already encoun­ters a few mas­sacres of pop­u­la­tions, often the same ones. No need to move back much fur­ther, for we might then find on the Repub­lic’s bap­tismal font, not only mas­sacres but a true geno­cide.   One of those which, at the cost of polit­i­cal maneu­ver­ing to seal elec­toral alliances, lit­tle by lit­tle, left and right-wing par­ties “rec­og­nize”… And if you talk a bit with Turk­ish Kurds, they will also describe “the nineties” as years of tor­ture, crimes and exac­tions, of jail­ings, exiles. Let’s not even men­tion “the eighties”…

So what exact­ly was this “democ­ra­cy” so deeply regret­ted by those who claim “things were so much bet­ter before”?

Of what is the AKP regime a fruit, a continuation, a prolongation, a rupture?

Per­haps these ques­tions seem mun­dane. We could set­tle for say­ing “things are lousy in Turkey”… “Well, I was there this sum­mer, and I was told things weren’t so bad…Personally, I did­n’t see a thing.” I spare you the name of the hotel and a descrip­tion of the gulls above the Bosphorus.

A mem­o­ry streams by in my head from my lycée days in the six­ties. The “Alger­ian con­flict” was head­ing for Evian, the streets were fes­tooned with tags by the OAS, news­pa­pers fea­tured black and white pho­tos of a ripped apart 4CV Renault and the por­trait of a lit­tle girl killed in a ter­ror­ist attack.   Elvis was on the TV screen in the young work­ers’ home where I ate at noon. There had been a ter­ri­ble acci­dent at the 24h Mans sports car race…

A sol­dier on leave, a young­ster from the neigh­bor­hood who was serv­ing as a para­medic in Algiers, repeat­ed to any­one who would lis­ten in what con­di­tion “they put the dirty arabs…” end of quote. In those days, France was “on its way to what”? It was the end of one Repub­lic about to give birth to anoth­er, under threat, while the “colonies were imper­iled”. And yet, it was­n’t for lack of “demo­c­ra­t­ic” insti­tu­tions, exac­er­bat­ed par­lia­men­tarism, of Left­ism, whether in the oppo­si­tion or not, nor of active filibustering.

The French, on the way to their hol­i­days, and the mon­ster traf­fic jams also delight­ed the news­cast­ers. My ado­les­cent eyes saw noth­ing but the seagulls…

Does this mean France was liv­ing under fas­cism, that it was a dic­ta­tor­ship? The bod­ies of the Alge­ri­ans float­ing in the Seine in 1961, the beat­ings in the provinces and the slums…were those fas­cism? And Mau­rice Papon, the ex-col­lab­o­ra­tor recy­cled into chief of police for a mur­der­ous Repub­lic, was he a demo­c­rat in an imper­iled democ­ra­cy “on the way to something”?

A few years lat­er, in 1968, this “demo­c­ra­t­ic and repub­li­can regime” was shak­en by a wave of protest from a youth torn between a desire for lib­er­al­ism and moder­ni­ty, and a refusal of the exist­ing order exud­ing the repres­sive and nor­ma­tive fea­tures of the Nation-State.   That wave, of a transna­tion­al mag­ni­tude, would give birth to neo-lib­er­al­ism ten years lat­er, and dri­ve the careers of reformist politi­cians born in the pre­ced­ing peri­od, while the lie fell apart in the East, giv­ing the beau­ti­ful word of “com­mune” a taste of slaugh­ter­house blood for decades.

Cap­i­tal­ist glob­al­iza­tion had its work cut out, and took on the fea­tures of nation­al crises…

So let’s get back to Turkey.

Could it be that we disagree on the meaning of the word “democracy”?

A Pres­i­dent orders a new vote because the pop­u­la­tions of Turkey have not giv­en him the expect­ed absolute major­i­ty, while he stokes wars, out­side his bor­ders in Syr­ia, inside his bor­ders in the East — is this democ­ra­cy? He obtains a YES for a change to the con­sti­tu­tion that prof­its him and his oli­garchy, out of fear and repres­sion. Is this democ­ra­cy? Lest we for­get, the polit­i­cal ascent of this same man rests on insti­tu­tion­al repub­li­can votes and polit­i­cal coups that were a spe­cial­ty of the Kemal­ist regimes he opposed up until the heav­en-blessed one in 2016…

So, what has changed?

I set aside the region­al con­text which, of course, overde­ter­mines everything.

The dis­missals by decree, the purges, the arrests and impris­on­ments now affect much more than the Kur­dish pop­u­la­tion which tra­di­tion­al­l­ly served as the main scape­goat dur­ing the past thir­ty years. Which does not mean that oth­ers, con­sid­ered as “minori­ties”, were spared. The qua­si upris­ing of the young peo­ple, and  of old­er ones, in 2013, which offi­cial­ly caused 6 deaths and 7800 wound­ed around Gezi Park, indeed changed some­thing: the feel­ing that State repres­sion could extend to protests in the West and in large Turk­ish towns.   And this protest had par­tial­ly bypassed the tra­di­tion­al Kemal­ist par­ties, the usu­al fus­es and buffers. Thus, the repub­li­cans saw their own insti­tu­tions lift­ing the trun­cheons and rain­ing down State vio­lence against them.

This is the moment to attempt a com­par­i­son with the sev­en­ties, when social con­flicts and class war­fare were on the rise and cre­at­ed a left and a rad­i­cal ultra-left on the one hand, and fed a fresh spurt of ultra nation­al­ism on the oth­er. Fol­low­ing the 1960, then the 1971 coups d’E­tat, the army regained pow­er in 1980 against those one of our gen­er­als would have described as “the rab­ble”. Eleven suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments occu­pied the scene dur­ing that peri­od, includ­ing that of the then- social demo­c­ra­t­ic CHP. This is when the Turk­ish ultra-left, fol­low­ing the 1980 coup d’é­tat, was sub­ject­ed to incar­cer­a­tions and vio­lence, soon fol­lowed by the Kur­dish pop­u­la­tions in vil­lages and small towns who had tak­en the Turk­ish left at its word and cre­at­ed the Kur­dis­tan Work­ers’ Par­ty (PKK 1978). Exac­tions in the East marked the eight­ies with razed vil­lages, exiles and the recon­fig­u­ra­tion of towns with a Kur­dish majority.

With all this, I still have not answered my own ques­tion, besides the fact that State-wise, from one to the oth­er, repres­sions and reac­tions are part­ly iden­ti­cal. Still, Gezi did not equal the cri­sis of the sev­en­ties, yet the repres­sion was not less strong nor less mur­der­ous for all that. Fas­cism? Dic­ta­tor­ships? Total absence of “democ­ra­cy”, that much is cer­tain, oth­er than par­lia­men­tary and rep­re­sen­ta­tive, in the frame­work of a Nation-State hid­ing its crises behind parox­ysms of vio­lence against its opponents.

For dic­ta­tor­ship, we find the def­i­n­i­tion: Polit­i­cal regime in which pow­er is held by a sin­gle per­son or by a group of per­sons who exer­cise it with­out con­trol, in an author­i­tar­i­an man­ner; time dur­ing which a dic­ta­tor holds power.” 

For fas­cism : “Fascism is an author­i­tar­i­an polit­i­cal sys­tem com­bin­ing pop­ulism, nation­al­ism and total­i­tar­i­an­ism in the name of a supreme col­lec­tive ide­al. A rev­o­lu­tion­ary move­ment, it is in frontal oppo­si­tion to par­lia­men­tary democ­ra­cy and to the Lib­er­al State that guraran­tees indi­vid­ual rights.”

Odd­ly enough, might these def­i­n­i­tions match both kemal­ism and the AKP regime?

Thus, we can legit­i­mate­ly say that in Turkey, we are “on the way” to denounc­ing a lie: that of the exis­tence of a democ­ra­cy at any phase what­so­ev­er of the exis­tence of its Repub­lic, and which is basi­cal­ly the nation­al lie of every Nation-State.

Repub­li­can nation­al­ist friends on the left and on the right, let us meditate!

Illus­tra­tion : Kyr­sos Pho­tog­ra­phy | Flickr

Trans­la­tion by Renée Lucie Bourges

Français : La Turquie est tou­jours en voie de quelque chose… Cliquez pour lire

Vous pouvez utiliser, partager les articles et les traductions de Kedistan en précisant la source et en ajoutant un lien afin de respecter le travail des auteur(e)s et traductrices/teurs. Merci.
Kedistan’ın tüm yayınlarını, yazar ve çevirmenlerin emeğine saygı göstererek, kaynak ve link vererek paylaşabilirisiniz. Teşekkürler.
Ji kerema xwere dema hun nivîsên Kedistanê parve dikin, ji bo rêzgirtina maf û keda nivîskar û wergêr, lînk û navê malperê wek çavkanî diyar bikin. Spas.
You may use and share Kedistan’s articles and translations, specifying the source and adding a link in order to respect the writer(s) and translator(s) work. Thank you.
Daniel Fleury on FacebookDaniel Fleury on Twitter
Daniel Fleury
Let­tres mod­ernes à l’Université de Tours. Gros mots poli­tiques… Coups d’oeil politiques…