Turkey’s deepening crisis: fast forward to the past

The deadly cycle that Turkey has been pushed into is raising domestic tension, with accelerating pace, to the point of being unbearable.

While the prospects of political openings in terms of coalitions are being sacrificed for what is seen as “President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s greatest gamble for survival so far,” each and every casualty of terrorism, and the state of war between the Turkish security forces and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), adds to an extremely worrisome instability.

At such moments in history, any single, minor event can unleash a series of major ones. These are the days in which a frenzy of murder, revenge and destruction becomes a lethal dance taking place around a powder keg called Turkey.

The scene at the Büyük Mosque in Osmaniye last Sunday was the most powerful manifestation of anger so far. The funeral prayer for fallen army captain Ali Akan was disrupted several times by a furious crowd –- including many women -– which turned into a demonstration against Erdoğan. The wreath he had sent was destroyed by the mourners and some local Justice and Development Party (AKP) figures were booed as they tried to join the lines of people for prayer.

The outcry of Lt. Col. Mehmet Alkan, the elder brother of the fallen captain, was simply heartbreaking. The video shows him going toward the coffin, his head hanging, in deep pain, uttering his slain brother’s name. Later he erupts, shouting: “A son of this land, 32 years old, didn’t have enough time on this land, in this world, with his loved ones. Who is the murderer? Who is the cause of this? Why do those who talked about peace up until today now say, ‘War until the end’? Instead of these soldiers, let them [politicians] fight against the PKK!”

Refusing to pray for his slain brother at the same mosque as the AKP deputies, Alkan said: “I will take my brother from this place where these thieves are. I will take him to the regimental command.”

That a mid-rank officer would rise up like this is highly unusual. But this incident, a funeral taking place with tumultuous scenes, may be the harbinger of more powerful ones to come. People from all across the social fabric have realized just how immoral, ugly and destructive with regard to losses of life the design of this political game is. The coffins of some PKK militants, being returned after a battle against the militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), were recently held for days and left to rot in sweltering heat at the Syrian border when the authorities refused to allow them into Turkey, and their families waited in vain to bury them. Now, also, with more deaths of soldiers, officers and others each and every day, every funeral will add to the tension.

Such a chain of events exposes how erratic and grave Erdoğan’s political choice is. If anything, the choreography he staged as “dance of death” tells us more than anything else how this leader is so clearly on the wrong side of history.

The failure to form a coalition has put the AKP into an even deeper quagmire. The party is now imploding and devoid of any political meaning, with its leader Ahmet Davutoğlu perceived as acting by remote control. And, because of the refusal of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) to take part in an interim government until an early election, it has now taken on the brand of “worthless solitude” — a term ironically used to describe Turkish foreign policy.

As for the voters, not much has changed since the June 7 election. If an early election is held in November, Parliament will consist of four parties. The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) continues to accumulate sheer protest votes, building on Kurdish support. Erdoğan seems doomed to fail once more.

His miscalculation was based on a presumption that like in Russia or Azerbaijan, people would be submissive to his will. But Turkey is neither. Those two societies have in their genes, decades of totalitarian rule. Turkey’s story, filled with free elections, is much different. The failure of a one-man rule, in the end, will be the greatest lesson of the period under AKP domination, a case study.

Yet, Erdoğan still holds a card. He has the power to postpone the election, citing extraordinary circumstances such as terror and war, and attempt to extend the AKP rule.

This is an option to be kept in mind.

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About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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