Talking about Turkey in Brazil

I will be in Brazil for one week to speak at various events about Turkish and Middle Eastern politics. Think tanks, universities and press associations are some of the venues where I have started talking frankly about how Turkey, with its successful blend of Islam, modernity, secularism, democracy, pluralism and human rights, was perceived as a role model in the so-called and”Muslim worldand” until a few years ago and why it is now seen as a typical Middle Eastern autocracy.
Similar to the analyses that I was making 10 years ago, I provide background information about Ottoman diversity, pluralism, modernization, secularization and democratization. Then I show the audience that with a dystopian aim of socially engineering a homogenous laandiumlcist Sunni Turkish nation, the socially Darwinist and hegemonic Young Turk elite cruelly ruled Turkey for decades. As a result, Kurds, Alevis, non-Muslims, practicing Muslims, leftists, liberals, etc. have all suffered. While we were hoping that with the Justice and Development Party (AKP) rule all of these atrocities would be left behind, over the last two years we have returned to similar problems, albeit in green! Turkeyand’s first elected sultan, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who regularly complains about the separation of powers and checks and balances, is increasingly eroding freedoms, human rights, the right to dissent, free media, independent civil society and the rule of law. Similar to the militarist elite of the past, Erdogan has been using tactics and instruments such as otherization, demonization, polarization and oppression. As was done during the Kemalist times, we try to explain this situation to the world so that they do not only see a one-sided, distorted story from Turkish officials, embassies and politicians. This is in defense of our freedoms, human rights, dignity and our beloved country, which could be ruined if Erdogan cannot be stopped democratically. Unlike what the AKP has been claiming, this is not conspiring against Turkey by spying or betraying our country. When the AKP was the opposition, they did exactly the same things. Yesterday, we hosted a panel at a very prestigious university with international relations students. The room was full and some of the students had to sit on the floor. They not only listened attentively but asked many quality questions, showing that they have been studying Turkish, Middle Eastern and Muslim politics in detail. They all seemed shocked to hear about what has been happening in Turkey. I shared my expectation that in the very short-term the future may be dark, but in a developed, pluralist and robust democracy like Turkey, establishing a dictatorship is almost impossible and that the AKP will lose this dangerous game. Even the mighty and omnipotent generals were not able to achieve this, how would the AKP without any deep roots in society or the administration of the government be able to totally eradicate dissent. Yes, they want to imprison me based on terrorism and spying charges, but who would believe these ridiculous lies? Yes, they want to confiscate the media outlets of the Hizmet movement and the Dogan Media Group, but the state canand’t kill ideas and opposition in this age. While the speaker next to me was talking about these issues and how Turkey could be saved from such a disaster, he mentioned that in order to silence critics, Erdogan has tried to shut down YouTube and Twitter. At that moment, I carefully watched the faces of students who were all very intelligent. I wish I could have filmed it. You should have seen how stupefied their faces were! I will most probably never forget the shocked and awed expressions on their faces! It is high time that AKP officials learn why these students were shocked. This will save Turkey and also their future!

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman