As a different administration, the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government faces two major criticisms in foreign policy. First is the criticism from the circles referred to as status-quo-secular circles and the pro-guardianship elites.
The main theme is that the AK Party is taking Turkey towards becoming a Shariah state and that it is moving away from the Western axis. The part of the slander campaign carried out with strong media support that exceeded the boundaries of criticism should also be recalled, to topple the AK Party government and, to this end, foment chaos. It is possible to refer to many such examples in the indictments of the ongoing coup-attempt cases.
What they do not accept is the Islamic identity of the AK party. That the wives of President Abdullah Gül, the parliament speaker, the prime minister and many ministers wear a headscarf is used as a tool of reporting to others that “they will change the lifestyle in Turkey.” These circles, who do not view the headscarf issue as a matter of personal freedom, declare the headscarf a political symbol and make it a target for a clash between secular and religious people. You should note that there was attempt to dissolve the AK Party over remarks on the headscarf despite that its program included no single reference against democratic secularism. It barely survived the closure case with one-vote margin because it extended support to the constitutional amendments introduced to lift the headscarf ban at the universities; however, it was still deprived of state aid.
Why I am recalling this? The headscarf is not only a tool to distract attention or change the agenda, it is also used as a pretext to undermine the image of the government in foreign policy, and it is used even in Islamic world. Recalling that the wives of our president, prime minister and foreign minister wear a headscarf, status-quo-secularists and the pro-guardianship elites argue that we set an improper example for the Arab countries because the wives of their counterparts in Turkic Republics, the Middle East and most Islamic countries do not wear a headscarf; that we signal to West that AK Party wants to change Turkey’s axis, facing to the east and a sinister reminder for the East that they should beware.
The second criticism comes from some circles known as religious. Despite the AK Party’s conservative identity, they argue that it submits itself to the Western policies. I wish the holders of these criticisms would make clear points with regard to Turkey’s NATO membership and EU bid. Should Turkey withdraw from NATO? Should it give up on its EU membership bid? Even tough some make such statements, there is nothing to get upset about. It is a view as well. But then I have the right to ask this question: if Turkey is to withdraw from NATO and leave the Western alliance, what is your alternative? Should Turkey create a new alliance? Should it create a new armed center of power that enables it to act unilaterally? Which states would defy the US and the EU and join such a union?
It is Turkey’s right to maintain closer ties with the Turkic republics, Middle Eastern countries, African and Islamic states. It is, in fact, necessary for Turkey to do so and improve its relations with these states. Nobody could object to this. But turning a blind eye to the realities and acting like a bully would be a risky venture, the bill of which would have to be paid by the entire nation.
I, too, want Turkey to become a strong and powerful state that has a say, takes initiative and seals the deal in this world manipulated by the colonial powers. Thank God, our star is rising. Of course I am not saying that this government should not be criticized at all. But you have to be fair in your criticism. Asking for zero problems with the neighbors is an expression of a vision. What is wrong with that? If you do not want any problem but your neighbors cause troubles, and if the neighbors still defy you, if Israel still challenges you despite the fact you have asked for an apology; if brutal dictators who panicked in face of the coming Arab Spring and fired bullets at their own people, should Turkey remain a bystander? Do not the others have any guilt?