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What does 2023 represent?

Markar Eseyan, July 9, 2011

In 2023, for better or worse, the Republic of Turkey will celebrate its centennial. 2023 is not not too far away. I hope the writer of these lines and his readers will see those days.

Frankly, I am excited on behalf of my country. It is like a feeling that parents readying for the graduation or wedding ceremony of their child have. This is a sense of belonging which you emerged from, live in and that bears, no matter how small, your own touch. And if you are one who has experienced a past of struggles associated with being expelled and who has suffered from being one of the “others” like me, you’ll better understand the value and excitement of this occasion.

You know, every case of brutality, repression and injustice offers various opportunities for the victims as they are each part of the divine balance of the life. You will take greater ownership over your values when they are taken away from you as compared to when you feel safe and confident. You become more empathetic and approach life with more maturity. You are moved to the periphery as the center takes a hostile stance against you; but in the periphery, the realities and truths are more easily visible as a whole. In this case, it is a remote possibility that you get spoiled and tempted by the benefits of being in power because you have been denied everything. It is hard to live just by your hard labor -- it is particularly harder if you suffer from injustice -- but its reward will be the fact that you remain pure.

And if you draw a valuable lesson from this and do not turn into a fascist even after being victimized, you will become mature enough to desire democracy, freedom, equality and welfare for all. This is actually the primary drive for the democracy.

I am writing this piece as someone who has realized the remarkable change and transformation that have taken place in recent years in Turkey. In 2002, when the AK Party came to power, I was a columnist at the Agos daily, along with Hrant Dink, my mentor and teacher. Everything was new. The Muslims, however, had attracted my attention since 1994 when Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was elected mayor of İstanbul. I had made it a habit to question the dominant discourse of the state because I was well aware of what happened to the Armenians. Of course, I had my doubts and biases over the Muslims as a citizen who was raised in Kemalist institutions; I cannot deny that. I grew up in an environment that viewed the election of Erdoğan in 1994 as the end of the world. I was one of those who raised fears and doubts from the very beginning.

But in 2002, we had extensive data, as well as a conscience and intellect. Good and bad are based on actions. This is the number one rule of the religions as well. This means that nothing in the universe was created as entirely bad or without serving a function. But creations like human beings, which have the power of choice, construct themselves by their actions. And we call this construction and its results “good” or “bad”. But if the outcome is good and we call it bad, this means we are bad. The political equivalent of this is fascism. Nobody can judge others by the reflections of their existence which they cannot possibly change.

I have closely followed the changes within and dissolution of the National Outlook movement upon the Feb. 28 deliberations, the injustices against Erdoğan, his conviction and, of course, the performance of the AK Party government since day one. I saw there something that I had never seen during the Republican era: the popular desire for change and the AK Party which took this desire and translated it into politics.

I have been extending principled support for the AK Party since my employment in Agos in 2002. Most do not want to notice what I did 10 years ago. I believe that this is not something about understanding, but it is about the fascism I referred to above. Those who suffer from Islamophobia and elitism view the AK Party, the Gülen Movement and the Muslim people as despicable and dangerous. It does not seem possible to explain otherwise the contrast between my contention that the last nine years represented an era of democratization and reforms and the view held by some others that the same years comprised a period of disaster. And I find this something that could be anticipated. After 80 years of ideological contamination, in the periods of sudden changes groups relying on the status quo suffer from a trauma associated with the dissolution of this status quo. Because the AK Party, Gülen Movement and liberals are ontologically bad for them, it is not necessary to take a look at their actions: taking the Turkish economy from a state of crisis in 2000 to the 16th largest economy in the world today, despite coup threats and huge amounts of debt, and surviving a global crisis that has bankrupted Greece, Ireland, Spain and Iceland as Europe’s fastest-growing country, addressing the military guardianship, dealing with the institutions that nobody thought could ever be fixed, holding the generals or top executives of Turkey’s prominent sports clubs accountable for their actions…

All these things did not matter at all for them because no matter how good the AK Party looked, everything was some sort of deception because the supporters of the status quo were the real owners of the assets of this country and those who sought to become partners to get their shares were committing a crime. The fact that they ask for their rights and that they actually get their rights is thievery.

In that case, alliance with Ergenekon and reliance on coups and massacres as a solution don’t conflict with their conscience and reason. A substantial part of the CHP support base views the coups and Ergenekon as assurances of their lifestyles. They are either unaware of the unethical elements in this stance or they find these to be negligible for their “sacred cause.” Well, right; you cannot make an omelet without breaking some eggs!

The current sad state that the CHP is in right now is the result of this analysis. Ergenekon suspects were nominated as CHP deputy candidates by whoever had played key roles in staging a plot against Baykal in an attempt to destroy the Ergenekon case and they were elected because what those who staged this plot meant by a “new” CHP was the guardianship using deputies as a Trojan horse in Parliament. Creating a new environment, stealing some votes through a change of discourse, acquiring power at the first opportunity and eliminating the gains of the last nine years… these are just some of the goals of the “new” CHP.

The current ambivalence of the CHP is a product of all of the aforementioned things; eroding the image of a highly representative parliament, one which reflects the largest percentage of the electorate in the history of the Turkish Republic and will be able to resolve the Kurdish issue and make the first popular constitution, and creating chaos have nothing to do with principled action and prudent politics. There is a broad alliance between Ergenekon, the military and CHP targeting the AK Party and its support base, and its members currently have hopes in connection with two developments. First, they expect that an economic crisis will take place in Turkey; we all know that there is a correlation between economics and democracy. It is not possible to consolidate democracy with a poor national economy. However, the AK Party, with the exception of the current deficit issue, has had a fairly impressive economic performance. The newly announced Cabinet has competent figures. This shows that Erdoğan is well aware of the relation between economics and politics. For this reason, he made frequent references to economy and stability, and through projects like Canal İstanbul, he set the bar higher by looking ahead to 2023. This was a grand message to the people.

Second, they also expect that the Kurdish opening will be undermined and that the overall situation will go back to the way it was in the 1990s, marked by brutality and inhumane practices. If the PKK war restarts, this will mean that the guardianship and the military will maintain control again and that prominent investigations, like those into Ergenekon and Sledgehammer (Balyoz), will be undermined. And besides, this has an equivalent within the PKK as well. Nobody would agree that the murder of Imam Aziz Tan in Hakkari, the killing of two military servicemen, the arson attempt at a dorm were committed to promote the rights and publicize the demands of Kurds, nor to call for peace. These are brutal provocations that you would not encounter even in wars.

For this reason Turks, Muslims, Kurds, Alevis, Christians, leftists, rightists, liberals and all wise people should play a role in this process. We have to stand against wrong actions no matter who committed them. This could be the AK Party, this could the CHP. We have an obligation to focus on the action rather than the identity of the individuals or institutions performing them. Let us address the old methods and throw them away; let us not acquire them. Let us do this so that justice can be done and the criminals convicted, but let us not be vindictive.

We had an exciting week, what with the match-fixing arrests, the Deniz Feneri operation, the oath-taking crisis of the CHP and BDP, announcement of the new Cabinet, murder of two military servicemen and many other events…

I was born in this country as hostage; I believe this is also the case with most of you. But I want to be free, I want to live freely and I want to die freely in this country.

Am I asking too much? Yes and no.

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