On July 24, 2013, a “Letter to the Prime Minister of Turkey” was published as an ad in the British newspaper The Times. It was signed by an illustrious group that included showbiz celebrities, such as Sean Penn, Ben Kingsley, and David Lynch; popular academic writers, such as Andrew Mango, known for his Ataturk biography; and notorious secularists, such as the Turkish composer Fazıl Say. The letter was part of the international contestation over the correct interpretation of the Gezi protests, which began in the last days of May 2013. After likening a government-organized rally against the Gezi protests and in support of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to the Nazis’ Nuremberg rally, even calling Erdoğan’s rule “dictatorial”, the letter continues as follows: “[Y]ou described these protesters as tramps, looters and hooligans, even alleging they were foreign-led terrorists. Whereas, in reality, they were nothing but youngsters wanting Turkey to remain a Secular Republic as designed by its founder Kemal Ataturk.” As exemplified in this letter, public reactions in the West tended to emphasize the purportedly secularist motivation behind the protests in opposition to a government whose authoritarianism was supposedly connected to its religious views.
Posts Tagged ‘Justice and Development Party (AKP)’
The protests in Turkey started on May 27 with a modest resistance movement against the destruction of Istanbul’s Gezi Park and the planned construction, in its place, of a replica of the Ottoman artillery barracks that formerly stood there (which, however, was also to include a shopping mall). The Occupy Gezi movement has since grown exponentially and spread to other Turkish cities, largely in response to police brutality and to the inflammatory speeches of Turkey’s Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The unprecedented scope and duration of the protests—and, even more importantly, the emergent movement’s pluralistic composition and inclusive political style—make it a genuinely new phenomenon in the ninety-year history of the Republic.
Taksim Meydanı. Partition Square. Although it has taken on potent new resonances in recent days, the name of Istanbul’s throbbing central plaza commemorates a now-forgotten history, the function of the site during the Ottoman period as a point of distribution and “partition” of water lines from the north of the city to other districts. Already long the favored site of demonstrations in Istanbul, Taksim is now the scene of the largest anti-government protests in Turkish Republican history. And the name of the square speaks volumes—what better word than “partition” to describe the increasingly politicized cleavages that have defined Turkish public life over the past decade, finally achieving international reverberation with the current protests?
Given the close relationship, globally, between religious political action and religious charities, it should come as no surprise that there is a long tradition of cooperation between Islamist political parties and Islamic charitable organizations in Turkey. While this relationship has been the subject of considerable discussion in analyses of Turkish domestic politics, less noticed has been the savvy cooperation between the Turkish government and Turkish Islamic organizations in implementing the country’s increasingly assertive foreign policy under the ruling AKP, or Justice and Development Party. Two recent crises, the “Mavi Marmara” incident in 2010 and Turkey’s on-going aid mission to Libya, highlight the ways in which this cooperation has allowed Turkey to assert itself regionally and are suggestive of the sophistication of its efforts to become, in Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan’s words, “a regional power and a global player.”
For human rights advocates in Turkey, all political alliances are necessarily alliances of convenience. The reasons for this are myriad, ranging from the particular militancy of Turkish nationalism, to the bitterness of Turkey’s struggle with Kurdish separatism, to the remarkable trust that Turkish culture continues to bestow on Devlet Baba, the “Father State.” Under the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which is frequently framed as an Islamist Party and just as frequently as a liberal one, supporters of expanded human rights in Turkey have won significant victories and have many, many reasons for concern. [...]
In a somewhat surprising move, Turkey’s Constitutional Court announced today in a very close vote its decision to not ban the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP)—which was facing charges of threatening the laicist order of the country—but only to cut its financial state support. Despite the relatively moderate decision, the verdict presented by the President of the Constitutional Court sent a clear warning to the AKP that the judiciary will not tolerate any subversion of the laicist order. [...]
Running like a geological fault beneath Turkey is a long-standing split between the popularly elected government and the state. The elected government (at present dominated by the Islam-influenced Justice and Development Party, known by its Turkish acronym AKP) is at odds with the state, which includes the military, judiciary, and other administrative institutions. Today the country is face to face with what many see as a judicial coup d’etat as the Constitutional Court deliberates whether or not to ban the popularly elected ruling party and bring down the government. This decision by seven judges (the minimum needed to convict) will change Turkey’s future. [...]
Later this week, the Turkish Constitutional Court is expected to hand down a decision that will determine the fate of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Many expect that the highest Turkish Court, when judging the legality of the AKP, will be consistent with its earlier decisions and close down the party, which has controlled the Turkish government since 2002. Furthermore, many expect the court to declare a five-year ban from politics for a considerable number (up to 70) of the party’s high-ranking representatives, including Prime Minster Tayyib Erdoğan and President Abdullah Gül. All of this in the name of protecting the laicist order—or, at least, this is the language in which this cause is presented. [...]
Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im’s erudite and thought-provoking book Islam and The Secular State provides a clear-sighted argument made from within the Islamic tradition for a state formation that allows Islamic beliefs and culture to enter the public domain through politics (as one of many rationally contested visions) and thereby influence the laws of the land. The keys to An-Na’im’s vision are Islamic morality and civic reason, both of which, in his interpretation, ensure a shared respect for constitutionalism, citizenship and human rights, and a neutral, secular state that provides an even playing field for public debate and makes sure that non-democratic instincts are kept in check. An-Na’im’s utopian vision stumbles here, however, in failing to provide any mechanisms for achieving its desired outcomes beyond good will, morality, and reason. [...]
Last March, the Chief Public Prosecutor of Turkey’s High Court of Appeals opened a closure case against the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party, which had received 47% of the votes in an 18-parties election eight months ago. The prosecutor asked the Constitutional Court not only for the closure of the party, but also for a ban on 71 leading politicians for five years, including Prime Minister Erdoğan and President Gül. The indictment presents the case as if it is based on the AK Party’s support for the recent constitutional amendments that would lift the headscarf ban at universities. I am not convinced that the lifting of the headscarf ban is the real basis of the case for three main reasons. [...]