BERİL DEDEOĞLU

Turkey’s two vital problems

Among many other problems, two particular ones are of vital significance to Turkey’s »»

Among many other problems, two particular ones are of vital significance to Turkey’s future. The evolution of these two issues will not only affect Turkey’s future but will also have global implications.

One of these subjects is the complex and multidimensional political process that we generally call “democratization.” Turkey is trying to get rid of the “coup tradition” and the regime of military tutelage. If this process ends in success, the Turkish Army will get the opportunity to grow stronger and return to its real mission: defending the country against external threats. Considering the current developments in our region, this will be a valuable transformation, as no one knows for now how the crisis in the Strait of Hormuz will end.

However, there is a fundamental problem with this “cleaning” process: The impression is that the system of tutelage remains intact while only this system’s players are changing. If we don’t talk of a comprehensive change in the system, debates over individuals will not bring a lasting transformation to the country. This process is turning into an endless judiciary procedure. Democratization cannot be assured purely through judicial decisions, even though there are people who expect and believe that the ongoing trials are sufficient enough to prove that Turkish democracy is progressing. However, the same judicial system is one of the main obstacles for the democratic resolution of the Kurdish issue. That’s why, while dismantling the regime of military tutelage, Turkey should reinforce its democratic institutions and structures that support all kinds of freedoms.

The second crucial issue concerns the developments in the Middle East. It seems that the struggle between the Sunni and Shiite axis is not limited to Saudi Arabia and Iran. The internal conflicts in Syria and Iraq are intensifying and several countries are sending their warships to the Strait of Hormuz.

In this context, there are countries that hope Turkey will support the Sunni axis, as this more democratic and Western country is more acceptable for them than Saudi Arabia. These countries are the ones that send their warships to Hormuz and also the ones that don’t want Turkey to join the EU. Their effort to present Turkey as the leader of the Sunni axis is, for them, another way to confirm Turkey’s Middle Eastern identity.

By the way, the UK has kept on supporting Turkey’s EU accession bid and has tried to guarantee Turkey’s friendship even if Turkey is being pushed way from Europe indefinitely. In a sense, the UK is trying to fill the gap left by France and Germany. However, the UK is not directly interested in the struggle between the Sunnis and the Shiites, but cares more about Russia’s actions during this struggle. In this context, the UK expects Turkey to take a position against the Shiite axis and has expressed this wish in various ways.

Nevertheless, Turkey is trying not to get involved in this struggle directly and it particularly does not want to antagonize Russia. However, those who haven’t managed to convince Turkey to pick a side are now trying to compel it to do so. If Syria and Iraq disintegrate, if there are more serious crises concerning the Cyprus or Armenian issues, along with a deeper crisis in the Strait of Hormuz, Turkey will feel obliged to take sides.

The only way out of this unpleasant equation for Turkey is to put its own house in order first. It has to democratize its political system, recognize the Kurds’ rights and encourage transparency. All this can only be achieved with a brand new constitution. Political and economic instabilities in neighboring countries generally affect one’s own country. One of the best ways to protect oneself from foreign turmoil is to be faultless at home.

2012-01-10

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Columnist:: BERİL DEDEOĞLU