It should be acknowledged that the Kemalists have observed the principle of equality in brutality and repression. They have repressed and persecuted the Muslims, the Alevis, the Armenians and all others without discrimination. And even when these circles and social segments came to represent a large majority of the nation, out of arrogance the Kemalists failed to realize that those they discriminated against could not be discounted.
There are so many wrongs and errors done by this tradition that despite its pragmatism and reluctance, every single step that it takes improves the AK Party’s popularity. Like it or not, the AK Party is the only party that promotes change. And when the Republican People’s Party (CHP) strongly opposes change and reform, the AK Party’s popularity grows even further. The greatest mistake that the CHP and its supporters hold is their belief that the Kemalist rule represented a true success. Yes, Kemalism has created a new type of human being. You and I are of this type. We will never know the alternate outlook this country would have had if its history had been shaped otherwise. But there is one thing that we know: Kemalism has left indelible imprints on our identity.
But from another perspective, Kemalism is a dramatically failed ideology because it has been promoted in the absence of popular support and it has moved forward by oppressing the people. As a result, the people have developed negative sentiments and opposition to it, and this opposition ended this engineering project. From a Foucauldian approach, a rule that is not internalized cannot be sustained. The rule needs to be adopted, conveyed and reinterpreted by the governed. Kemalism failed to realize that it has been able to survive because of fascism in Europe and the circumstances of the Cold War up to the 1990s. Kemalists thought that their survival was due to their success. Because of this, Kemalism has repressed civilian administrations viewed as being in opposition to its policies by reliance on military coups. While it was a country that executed its prime minister and ministers, Turkey was still able to receive external support due to the oppressive political ideologies of the time.
That support has disappeared with the collapse of the Soviet Union and end of the Cold War era. Instead, a huge information revolution is taking place, globalization is declaring all dictatorships enemies to global markets, and as a result it seems that any dictatorial regime that is unable to integrate with the world economic system will not be able to survive. China’s transition to state capitalism and subsequent global tolerance of its antidemocratic practices is a good example of this. Had China not adopted this stance, it would have become a country was struggling with insurgencies that would have attracted global support. And let us call this one of the unethical impacts of globalization.
For this reason, the military did not stage a conventional coup on Feb. 28, 1997. It could be said that then-Chief of General Staff Gen. Ismail Hakkı Karadayı served as a balancing actor between those who wanted to stage a conventional coup and those who favored a postmodern coup. Former Chief of General Staff Gen. Hilmi Özkök’s subscription to democracy is being praised because of his opposition to the coup attempts by the junta within the army in 2003 and 2004. But this is a false view. Even if the junta wanted to carry out a coup, they would not have achieved it in 1997 and 2003. Even if they had attempted to, this would not have been successful; and in that case, Turkey would have pursued the reform process more strongly. I am telling you, if there had been a conventional coup on Feb. 28, the reforms in the last decade would have been more radical, and we would have made our new constitution. Some hold that Turkey is immune to developments in the world, but this is not the case.
In sum, we are still dealing with a number of problems as remnants of 20th-century issues including the Kurdish issue, the Armenian issue, the Cyprus problem, the coup constitution and coup institutions and laws. They are like paper tigers. They could be destroyed by a single fist. But our hesitation does not allow us to do this.