Message from Turkey’s Streets

02 جنوری 2010
Turkey is tense after reports of another military coup attempt. Eight soldiers have been detained over the alleged plot to assassinate Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc and bring down the government headed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Turkey has a long history of military interventions and confrontation between the army and the country’s elected politicians. This is the second such failed coup this year against the elected and widely popular government of Prime Minister Erdogan. In July, dozens of people, including two retired generals, journalists and academics, went on trial in Turkey for plotting to overthrow the government.
Last year, the Erdogan government and governing AK Party were put on trial in a constitutional court for “endangering the secular Turkish republic” with their attempts to “Islamise” the country. The case against the AKP was brought by the country’s chief prosecutor, no less, who sought to ban the ruling party and its functionaries, including Prime Minister Erdogan.
Erdogan and his party however survived the case and the country was spared a major political and constitutional crisis. While it remains to be seen if the latest coup against the democratic government had the blessings of the top guns of the elitist military establishment, no smoke is likely without fire.
The truth of the matter is, Turkey’s military establishment and urban elite have barely tolerated the government of AK Party or Justice and Development Party despite its impressive electoral performance. The army that sees itself as the guardian of the country’s secular ideals and protector of Ataturk’s legacy has virtually run the country all these years. However, the generals haven’t been able to quite handle and contain the governing AKP. For one, Erdogan’s party is widely popular and enjoys massive support at grass roots level. Which has manifested itself repeatedly in free and fair democratic elections held since the AKP was formed. The governing party rose from the ashes of an Islamist party that was banned by the pro-military government. Under Erdogan, the country has gone from strength to strength, rising as an economic giant.
For two, the rise of AKP and its openly Islamist leaders, Prime Minister Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul, also signals a seismic shift in Turkish politics as well as society. In his wisdom, Ataturk, the architect of modern Turkey, drove the Muslim country towards Western secularism and modernisation, burning all bridges with the Islamic world. This meant suppressing Turkey’s Islamic roots and long history of leading and governing the Muslim world — from Egypt to East Turkmenistan — until the last century. Not long ago, even sporting a harmless headscarf to university and work was an absolute ‘no, no.’ And this is a Muslim country! Turkey has changed a great deal over the past few years though. Today, President Gul’s wife and that of Prime Minister Erdogan both proudly flaunt their hijab.
Clearly, the country, at the crossroads of the East and West, is changing and it is at peace with itself. It’s not apologetic about its Islamic past or growing ties with the Arab and Muslim world. The generals would ignore this message from Turkey’s streets at their own peril. Secularism doesn’t mean a war on religion. Democracy and faith can co-exist in peace.
áCourtesy: Khaleej Timesâ

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