The past couple of months have been quite turbulent for Turkey. Tensions broke out between allies of 12 years after rumors of regulations targeting prep-schools surfaced. Right after that, allegations of corruption in government agencies emerged, followed by shocking arrests of the sons of some ministers, as well as the husband of a Turkish diva regularly seen, not on the economic pages, but in the tabloids, which made Metris prison a new haunt for tabloid journalists.
Needless to say, this commotion has made for a field day for AKP opposition groups, which were already on the lookout for reasons to criticize. They immediately formed new alliances following the motto: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” And yet, these developments proved detrimental for the Turkish economy, with a sizeable impact on the stock exchange and the Turkish Lira. Last Monday, the Central Bank of Turkey (CBT) held an emergency meeting to stem the flow of capital out of Turkey, and decided to raise the lending interest rate by four percent (an extraordinary increase!) which is intended to entice capital flows back into Turkey. After the CBT made its move, the Turkish Lira strengthened nine percent against the U.S. dollar in the first three days of the week. These developments made it clear that it is now time now to calm down, take a deep breath and let everything go back to normal before it translates into long term damage for the Turkish economy. Those who care about Turkey need to take a step back, stop the divisive language and let society settle down.
A positive note
On a more positive note, when compared to previous weeks, things have been calmer this week mostly due to Prime Minister Erdogan’s prudent moderation of rhetoric, a constructive dinner with the elders of the Nur students (students of Bediüzzaman, the genre which also produced the Gülen movement) and down to earth meetings with the public. Yet we need more voices of moderation and reconciliation so that the recent developments don’t do even more damage than they have already done. However, it would be better for Prime Minister Erdogan to keep constantly emphasizing that corruption would not be covered in any manner of means and that such cover-ups would be in conflict with the basic principles of his party anyway. Indeed, business and trade deals are more like streams of water than cattle; international investors more effectively attracted, lured and channeled than they are herded and driven into a corral.
Sitting on such delicate balances in an ever erratic and imbalanced region, Turkey has to offer a sense of stability, refuge and moderationCeylan Ozbudak
It should also be noted that the Turkish economy, which previously enjoyed rapid growth heavily based on an umbrella of various industries - contrary to surrounding countries that usually depend on service industries or energy based products - has a more stable structure that spans a wider range of revenue sources. For instance, 90 percent of Turkey’s exports consists of industrial products, and any fluctuations in Dollar-Turkish Lira parity will surely affect that stability but not easily cripple it. Still, Turkey needs to get back its internal peace as soon as possible not only for itself, but for the role it is playing in its region and for its international responsibilities.
Right before these problems emerged, Turkey was on a winning streak with a new and impressive African policy, a more active foreign policy in the Middle East and had already proved itself as a positive balancing actor in Africa and Asia. Yet, the said domestic problems consumed the energies of Turkey, distracting us from these concerns.
So what happened while Turkey was pre-occupied with its internal problems? It would be impossible to list everything that took place last month here, but to give some insight, just last week 74 people were killed by Boko Haram in Nigeria’s Borno state, where Turkey had previously built hospitals, schools, a university and social recreational centers. In the Central African Republic, a Muslim president came into power and a vast Muslim persecution started. As Bulent Yildirim, the head of the IHH pointed out this week, we as Turkey could have easily guessed that Muslims would be targeted in the Central African Republic as soon as the new president took over; Turkey was in a position to prevent such developments with diplomatic solutions and through its network within the country, but fell short of doing that because it was too immersed in its own problems.
After three years, Iran and Hamas have started getting closer. Despite the occasional ups and downs Turkey had with Israel, it should be kept in mind that Turkey was among the first countries in the world to recognize Israel and make her a trading and military partner. If Iran takes this opportunity to replace Turkey as mediator, and continues its traditional policies, it would have a dramatically different position in reference to Hamas than the Turkish position, which would help neither Palestine, Israel, nor the Atlantic Pact. The most likely upshot would be to paralyze the entire peace process.
The oil deal signed with northern Iraq – the Kurdish region - and the negotiations with the Baghdad central government, suggests that oil flow to Turkey could start anytime; however, due to the delays in diplomacy resulting from Turkey’s domestic problems, this transfer was put on hold until the beginning of this summer. In the meantime, reports emerged that the execution of Jamaat-e-Islami members in Bangladesh would continue this month with 14 people in line on death row. Even though Turkey had been adamant in its efforts to try to talk the Bangladeshi Awami government out of such a move, both at the presidential level and foreign ministry level , at the moment Turkey is kept from taking action because of the distress at home. Meanwhile, China arrested an Uighur Turk intellectual for his criticism of Chinese policies over East Turkestan. Turkey, as the only country that had diplomatic talks with China to protect East Turkestan, is now too busy with its own problems to do anything about it. On the further end of Asia, the Rohingya people of Myanmar are facing a new threat of persecution from Burmese gangs, who use the cloak of Buddhism and once again, Turkey, which started various initiatives to avoid Rohingya persecution, is too busy putting things back together at home.
The Kurdish issue
Surely, this is not all: Turkey operates in a very volatile region that rests on extremely delicate balances. In the past weeks, the PYD declared autonomy in various cantons. The first move of the PYD, even though claiming to act for democracy and freedom, was to put up a picture of Abdullah Ocalan, the Leninist leader of PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party), proclaiming him to be their leader. This gesture showed yet again that the communist state dreams of the PKK, which Turkey has been warning against for a very long time, are not just a suspicion, but a continuing threat. This also proved that the PKK wants to build a mini Soviet Russia in the Middle East based on Leninist-communist ideals, the ideology behind its actions. This creates a problem, not only for Turkey, but also for the innocent Kurdish people. Kurdish minorities have been oppressed so many times on so many fronts already - such as when they were massacred by Saddam towards the end of the Gulf War, and these massive losses in Iraq are what led so many Kurdish people to flee to Turkey as refugees in the first place.
Kurdish people in Syria, who are considered a big proxy power since the civil war, are still in a majority yet do not have identity cards issued by the Syrian government. Following the 1962 census, approximately 120,000 Syrian Kurds lost their citizenship. As a result, those individuals and their descendants remained severely disadvantaged in terms of social and economic opportunities and in receiving government services including health and education, as well as employment open only to citizens. Stateless Kurds had limited access to university education, and a lack of citizenship or identity documents restricted their travel to and from the country. In September, the U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food stated that between 250,000 and 300,000 stateless Kurds remained in the country. Kurdish parties considered illegal for decades such as the Azadi Party (Kheirudin Murad); Future Party (Masha’l Tammo); Kurdish Democratic Alliance; Kurdish Democratic Front, Yekiti Party (Fu’ad Aleyko) have re-emerged. To put it in simpler terms, many of these Kurdish people never existed according to official Syrian accounts. When the Syrian civil war broke out, they were first targeted by the Shabbiha; then the radical opposition groups came onto the scene and began perpetrating widespread massacres. Many tried to flee to the Iraqi Kurdistan area but because of circumstances and the attitude of Erbil, large numbers were simply stuck at the border or had to come crawling back. Then, the PKK in disguise emerged as the PYD and with a new false aim of “protecting the Kurdish people,” and yet they have clearly failed to disguise their true intentions as they are openly waiting for the right moment to mobilize innocent Kurdish people as guerillas working for communist ideals. Therefore the new autonomy move of the PYD drew immediate suspicion on the Turkish front.
Turkey needs to restore a perception of tranquility as soon as possible, not only for itself, but for the sake its responsibilities in the region. Sitting on such delicate balances in an ever erratic and imbalanced region, Turkey has to offer a sense of stability, refuge and moderation to those who are in need. What the Turkish people and those involved in politics need to consider first is not the individual gain through following a tide of opposition but listening to the voices of their conscience and offer solutions in the urgent humanitarian matters I mentioned above. As the people of Turkey, we don’t have the luxury of disputing over trivial issues when major catastrophes are engulfing others.
Ceylan Ozbudak is a Turkish political analyst, television presenter, and executive director of Building Bridges, an Istanbul-based NGO. As a representative of Harun Yahya organization, she frequently cites quotations from the author in her writings. She can be followed on Twitter via @ceylanozbudak