Jenkins, who is a Nonresident Senior Fellow with Silk Road Studies Program at Central Asia-Caucasus Institute of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), told political observers at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in Washington on Tuesday that Americans should watch DVDs of “Valley of the Wolves” in order to “see a lot of the psychotic problems Turkish society has.”
According to Jenkins, the “psychotic” elements in the television series include a large amount of Ottoman nostalgia, Turkish racial supremacy and even anti-Semitism.
Jenkins also said that “it’s easy and convenient” for a many writers to say that “Turkey is breaking away from the West” and “to portray these things in black-and-white terms.”
He said, however, Turkey cannot break away from the West economically.
“There has been a shift in emphasis in the amount of attention that has been devoted to fellow Muslim countries as opposed to Western countries,” he added.
Regarding the most recent crisis between Turkey and Israel, Jenkins described the Israeli deputy foreign minister’s behavior as “grossly insulting” in reference to Danny Ayalon’s meeting with Turkish Ambassador Ahmet Oğuz Çelikkol, which took place in front of Israeli TV crews on Monday. The TV crews filmed how Ayalon refused to shake the ambassador’s hand and forced him to sit on a chair lower than his. Ayalon stood behind his decision to summon Çelikkol to protest the TV show “Valley of the Wolves,” which depicts Israeli intelligence agents as brutal.
“Almost any country would have been personally insulted by that, particularly in the region which Turkey is in, where pride has played a very, very important role in politics and personal life. This was grossly insulting,” Jenkins said.
“I think there is an awareness in Israel that they need this relationship more than Turkey does.
It’s very difficult to see how it’s going to be repaired,” he added.
Israel has been worried by Ankara’s tilt away from the West and toward the Jewish state’s archenemy, Iran, while Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been fiercely critical of Israel’s use of overwhelming firepower against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
In response to a question regarding the Turkish government’s position regarding Muslim countries and whether or not it is against Israel, Jenkins said the government is not explicitly against Israel.
“I don’t think this is a deliberate attempt to encircle Israel [or] put pressure on Israel directly. It’s more a case of solidarity with Muslims rather than being anti-Israeli,” he said.
Two authoritarian powers in Turkey
According to Jenkins, there are two authoritarian forces in Turkey using their influence within the apparatus of state to try to pursue a political agenda.
“Unfortunately, I don’t think we have a third force,” he said. “We just have these two authoritarian forces. At the moment, [it is the ruling Justice and Development Party] AK Party which is winning.”
Responding to a question from a researcher from the Hudson Institute on the issue of a civilian search of the military’s secret files to find evidence of a suspected plot to assassinate Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç, Jenkins said it is “laughable” that “pro-AK Party press said that there is a plan for assassination.”
“Police investigations start with evidence. You must have such evidence. There is no such evidence,” he said, adding that secularists within the judicial system, within the security forces and, above all, within the military used and abused their powers in the 1990s to persecute Islamists.
“What we have seen now in the last couple of years particularly is that the situation is being reversed. Now we have elements sympathetic to the government using and abusing their powers and breaking a lot of Turkish laws in the process to try to prosecute hard-line secularists,” he said.
Gülen movement and ‘Milli Görüş’
A researcher from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) asked Jenkins whether or not there is a possibility of a separation between the followers of the Gülen movement and National View (Milli Görüş) supporters.
In response, Jenkins said there is a “marriage of convenience between Erdoğan and the Gülen movement.”
“And my feeling is that if Erdoğan puts himself above party politics, the king maker is really going to be the Fethullah Gülen movement,” he added.
Clarifying a question about the possibilities of separation, he said that there is no prospect of Gülen, who lives in the United States, choosing who will be the next generation of leaders in Turkey.
“Fethullah Gülen lives in Pennsylvania. His health is not so good. He spends most of his time reading and writing. I don’t think he is sitting and pulling the strings behind anything. But it would be the movement in Turkey which would decide in some way who they want to support. And they now have a very powerful media arm as well,” he said.
Jenkins, who also referred to some contradictions in Turkey by calling them “ideological confusion,” said there are a lot of paradoxes, giving one example. He said compulsory religious education is not considered to be against secularism whereas “if a girl puts a scarf around her head and tries to go into university, that’s against secularism.”