Why does Turkey oppose Western aspirations?
On this year’s Republic Day celebrations I was once again reminded that this is our home and we are all in this together; we need to stick together
Last Wednesday, Turkey celebrated the 91st anniversary of the foundation of the Turkish Republic. This year’s holiday has been much more thought provoking than those of previous years, perhaps because the unitarian structure of the Turkish Republic has never been as threatened as it is now. In the 1920s, the founding fathers of the Turkish Republic fought a heroic war of independence against European imperialism and today the Turks are fighting a bitter war of ideals against those who favor the further Balkanization of the Middle East.
The Ottoman Empire lasted for about 650 years, and at its best, stretched into three continents. Considering conditions at the time, for a very long time the Ottomans were quite accepting and liberal when compared to Europe. The Arab lands were blessed with abundance, even Jerusalem; the home of three major religions was at peace with only a single troop of Ottoman soldiers. The Temple Mount was tranquil. Then nationalist ideologies visited these lands, ravaging the Ottoman authorities that had already become weaker through the sad influence of bigotry during the latter stages of the Empire.
Following the Great War, Asia Minor with a small extension into Europe, was left to the remains of the Empire, which decided to go on living as a democratic republic: Turkey. In the meantime the Arab states, which were under Ottoman control for centuries, lost all their riches, power and the national independence they aspired to grasp in the power vacuum created after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. For centuries, the Arab lands were secured by the Ottoman army and ruled by the governors appointed by the Ottomans. After breaking free from the Ottoman state, the Arab states had no idea about how to reestablish a proper army, create state institutions and carry out diplomacy. Thus, they fell into the hands of colonial powers. When the colonial Europeans left, the Middle Eastern states took on a darker future with dictatorships. By the time they reached the stage of the second Arab awakening, the majority of the peoples were regretting the first Balkanization program of the Middle East. They were left all alone at a time they needed each other the most.
Europe thrived in unity while the Middle East collapsed
On the other hand, the embattled European states got back up on their knees quite fast. They acted together rather than trying to fight the remnants of war alone. The first community organization was created in the aftermath of the Second World War when rebuilding the shattered economy of the European continent and ensuring a sustainable peace appeared necessary.
On this year’s Republic Day celebrations I was once again reminded that this is our home and we are all in this together; we need to stick together.Ceylan Ozbudak
The European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) Treaty was signed in Paris in 1951 and brought France, Germany, Italy and the Benelux countries together in a community with the aim of organizing the free movement of coal and steel and free access to sources of production. In addition to this, a common High Authority supervised the market, with respect for the rules of competition and price transparency. This treaty has been the origin of the institutions we know as the European Union today. While the European states favored further fragmenting the Middle East, they were busy constructing a union for themselves.
Unions are always stronger. The U.S. is strong because it is a large union of states (that once used to fight each other). Now the U.S. is seeking an even bigger union between the American continents while working on further Balkanizing the Middle East. The EU stands stronger than single European states because in this way, it is possible to support each other in times of financial or political crisis situations. What Turkey seeks and foresees for the Middle East is also a union. This is not Ottoman era thinking, this is (contemporary) Western-oriented thinking. Turkey foresees a Middle East which is united on financial and political issues like the EU, which offers passport-free travel, free trade, equal rights for all and zero-tolerance to dictatorships. Turkey’s ideal is a union of stronger Middle Eastern states, which manages to maintain their unitarian structures, which offers democracy, the right to practice every faith without any pressure on non-believers (passive secularism).
This is why Turkey opposes the current plan of its Western allies. If we hold on to more violence while trying to wipe out terrorizing groups, this will only leave us with more resentment, more hate and more revenge seekers. The Western states might be underestimating the power of evaluating Arab or Kurdish lives as collateral damage but ISIS is the result of that “collateral damage.” Turkey is not seeking to be the sultan of the region, but it is seeking to get through this with the EU and the U.S. with a solution which will bring peace to the societies of not only the Middle Eastern nations, but also Western nations. The idea of a Middle Eastern union can bring stronger economic and political integration with the EU and the U.S. and will build a notion of understanding without wars, without any side losing its nationality and culture due to developments like globalization, customs unions or membership in a Middle Eastern union.
For this reason, Turkey will oppose being divided for the formation of a Kurdistan and will oppose the formation of a PKK state for as long as it takes. Powerless, small states with fragile borders will bring no good to Kurds or Arabs or even to Israelis, against the background of the Palestinian conflict. If the union of Turks and Kurds inside Turkey is severed, the line of separation can grow wider and the controversies can no longer be settled in the halls of legislation. On this year’s Republic Day celebrations I was once again reminded that this is our home and we are all in this together; we need to stick together. Turks, Kurds, Arabs, Persians, Jews, Armenians - we have all dwelled in these lands for centuries together. Like the Europeans got over their resentments towards each other, so must we.
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
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