Growing Internal Crisis In Turkey: Causes And Consequences
For decades Turkey was a great symbol of hope for the world. Hope of a peaceful and harmonious synchronization of the eastern and western values that can act as an antibody to ideologies promoting conflict.
Geographically, the position of Turkey as almost a bridge between Asia and Europe was ideally suited for it to play such a role. Politically also, Turkey, being part of both Asia and Europe, acts as a confluence of the two worlds, orient and occident.
A country which is almost completely populated by Muslims but is a liberal democracy devoid of any of those fundamentalist laws that plague many other Islamic nations was bound to be admired, both by Muslim liberals and Western internationalists.
So, what has changed? Why is this beacon of hope suddenly caught up in a civil unrest that is making the world nervous and Turks feel unsafe?
There are many reasons and its their coming together that has created the whirlpool of tumult that is keeping Turkey on the boil.
Let’s study them all in detail.
1. Crisis Of Identity
Turkey’s position as a deeply secular state with a near 100% Muslim population may seem an admirable example to the rest of the world and one that should be emulated by others, but it also has a flip side.
While Kemal Ataturk’s reforms imposed modernity and an element of westernization on the Turkish people, a large chunk of the population remained deeply religious and conservative.
They were unhappy with some the over zealousness the Turkish state showed in imposing secularism.
For instance, in Turkish universities, girls are not allowed to wear hijab. Those girls who don’t want to do away with it take recourse to wearing wigs over their hijab. Similarly, the use of Roman script to write Turkish has also irked a lot of people.
The resentment of people over these issues were bound to lead to political repercussions. The arrival of the Justice Party, a pro-Islamic conservative party, with Recep Tayyip Erdogan was this manifestation. While only half the country supported Erdogan (he and his party used to get around 50% of the vote in elections), his hold on power increased.
This has led to what some people perceive as a fundamentalist agenda that a large percentage of population is uncomfortable with.
2. Fallout Of Attempted Coup
Turkey’s President Erdogan was slowly consolidating his hold on power through changes to the constitution when, in July 2016, an attempted coup was launched by sections of the military.
In a dramatic few hours, Erdogan appeared through video call on national television asking his countrymen to take to streets and oppose the rebels.
They did that and the coup failed. But then, a vengeful Erdogan launched a witch-hunt against people connected with the plot to overthrow the government. Thousands of army men were rounded up for being part of the plot. But that was just the beginning.
The government soon started arrested people from various different sections of society – journalists, intellectuals, academicians, bureaucrats, etc.
Thousands of people have been rounded up and the human rights situation is grim.
Turkey is now showing signs of the kind of autocracy that is associated with governments of middle east but wasn’t expected in this country.
3. Ripples Of Syria Conflict
The biggest conflict raging in the middle-east, the Syrian conflict is also playing a part in Turkish affairs.
For long Turkey has been fighting Kurdish militants demanding a split from Turkey.
With the growth of ISIS and the weakening of the Syrian authority, the situation in this region become even more complicated.
After the defeat of ISIS, Turkey decided to become active in the North Syrian region of Afrin to target both Kurdish militants as well as ISIS fighters who it sees as fighting against it.
Islamist militants have responded to Turkey’s involvement in these affairs with several terrorist attacks in the country’s capital which have left scores of people dead. The situation is spiraling out of control.
4. Present Chaos
With all these factors combining, there is chaos and mayhem in Turkey.