The Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) adherence to social democratic values and its support for freedom have become the subject of debate after the Socialist International (SI) condemned the brutality of the Syrian regime, which marked a clear divergence from the CHP’s policy. “The continued brutalization of the Syrian people is an affront to humanity, and the [President Bashar] Assad regime, which bears the responsibility for the deaths of tens of thousands of Syrian civilians, has lost all legitimacy.
The cry for freedom and democracy in Syria is stronger than ever and we have, and will continue to stand in solidarity with the citizens of Syria struggling for freedom and democracy, and support the efforts of the UN and the Arab League to find a viable end to the conflict,” said SI in its final declaration released on Saturday at the end of its 24th Congress in Cape Town.
As an irony of fate, the CHP, which has so far preferred to direct its criticisms and condemnations at the Syria policy of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government more than at the atrocities of the Syrian regime, was also one of the participants of the SI’s Cape Town meeting and had its leader, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, elected as deputy chairman of the SI.
Since the start of public unrest 18 months ago, the AK Party government has backed the Syrian opposition against the administration of Assad and often asked the president to bow to his people’s will and step down. Kılıçdaroğlu and his CHP believe the AK Party government is wrong in its anti-Syria policy. The CHP is also against the government’s policy to take in Syrian refugees who flee the violence in their country
Turkey currently hosts more than 78,000 Syrian refugees within its borders. The refugees have been pouring into Turkey for shelter since the start of the uprising in Syria in 2011. They are placed in boarding schools, dormitories, fitness centers and tent cities in some southern provinces.
According to Professor Atilla Yayla, a political scientist, no matter which ideology one has, they should see and raise their voice against the brutalities of the Assad regime in Syria from the perspective of morality, justice and humanitarian values.
“The SI did the right thing in this respect. But it seems that the CHP, although it has some socialist leanings, is unaware of the fact that socialism has evolved into social democracy and adopted a more democratic line. The SI is actually the union of social democrat parties, although its name is socialist international,” he said. Recalling the CHP’s support for the Muammar Gaddafi regime in Libya and the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq, Yayla asked: “I am really curious to know what answer Kılıçdaroğlu would give to this question: Is your attitude correct or the statement of the SI?”
The SI is an umbrella organization that brings together the social democrat, labor and democratic socialist political parties of the world under one roof. The CHP frequently draws the ire of the SI due to its policies, which many say do not comply with social democratic values. A delegation from the SI came to Turkey in 2008 to investigate whether the CHP is adhering to the principles of the SI. The CHP often receives criticism from SI members, who say the party’s “nationalist rhetoric” is in violation of universal democratic standards.
İnal Batu, a retired diplomat and a former CHP deputy chairman, lamented the fact that the CHP, for which he sacrificed years, is the target of criticism today for being Baathist and supporting the Assad regime, which spills blood.
Batu said it is the CHP’s administrators and spokespeople who led to such a negative perception about the party.
“There should have been two condemnations against Assad for every criticism against the AK Party, but instead it was the opposite. There is the impression that the CHP does not sufficiently oppose the brutal policies of the Assad regime. As a so-called social democrat party, the CHP’s priority should have been highlighting human rights. There is a bloody dictatorship regime in Syria that massacres its own people. First of all, the CHP should have strongly condemned this regime, then it should have criticized the government for putting the country at risk of becoming a party in the possibly sectarian war in Syria,” said Batu. The CHP’s allegations about a Syrian refugee camp in Hatay, the Apaydın camp, which hosts Syrian military defectors and their families, also substantially damaged the party’s image, according to Batu.
Kılıçdaroğlu has claimed that Turkey is training Syrian military defectors and soldiers in the camp, which has been closed off to the media.
The head of the parliamentary Human Rights Investigation Commission, who on Tuesday paid a visit to the Apaydın refugee camp along with some commission members, ruled out the CHP’s allegations that the camp is being used as a site to provide military training to Syrian defectors, saying it is physically unsuitable to be used for such a purpose.
The SI’s condemnation of the Assad regime is a very positive step, said Ahmet Taşgetiren, a columnist from the Bugün daily, while he said the CHP’s policy regarding the violent crackdown on the opposition is astonishing and unacceptable.
“The SI’s statements on Syria and the CHP’s Syria policy is a serious contradiction both for the CHP and the SI,” he told Sunday’s Zaman, calling on both the SI and the CHP to re-examine their relationship. The CHP has been a full member of the SI since 1995, when it took the place of the Social Democracy Party (SODEP).
Mümtaz Soysal, a former foreign minister, said the biggest mistake of the CHP is in its discourse and that the party should develop a discourse on Syria that disregards whether this discourse benefits other parties. “If they want the end of massacres in Syria, everyone should review their discourse,” he said.
According to Şeref Malkoç, deputy leader of the Voice of the People Party (HAS Party), the CHP should take the SI statement on Syria as an opportunity to correct its own policy on Syria.
“The CHP should condemn the Assad regime by making use of this opportunity,” he said.
Yet, calls for the CHP to denounce the Assad regime fell on deaf ears in the party’s ranks. A statement made by CHP Deputy Chairman Faruk Loğoğlu on Thursday fell short of condemning the Assad regime.
In his statement Loğoğlu said: “On the issue of Syria, the CHP has never defended the Assad regime or debated its legitimacy. There has not been any debate on this issue in Cape Town. The decisions made regarding the Syria issue [there] reflect the general attitude of the SI.”