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- Written by Eman Jueid
- Category: World News
After the internal turmoil the country suffered in the early 19th century, caused by the multi-ethnic and multi-religious conflicts of the Ottoman Empire, the founders of the Turkish Republic, under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, were convinced that cultural homogeneity was the only way to keep the nation intact. This was done through the forced assimilation of non-Turkish Muslims into a nationalistic ideal of "Turkishness." As Professor Bâli pointed out, Turkification was carried out through rapid social engineering and resulted in the repression of other religions, ethnicities and cultures. Foreign languages were banned, and all public signs, notices, and cinematograph titles were printed solely in the Turkish language.
Bâli argued that this Turkification process, due to its repressive nature, has had negative consequences that continue to dominate Turkish politics even today (e.g. The Kurdish Problem, the Armenian Problem). As such, there are certainly concerns in adapting the Turkish Model in democratization efforts in the Middle East, which could be dangerous in the long-term because the Turkish Model still struggles to break away from its repressive history.
Discussing the recent rise of Turkey as a political leader in the region, Professor Bâli explained that Turkey’s current position is actually an outcome of the “zero problems with neighbors” policy that prioritized stability and peace in the region. She argued that foreign policy was not so much an outcome of Turkey’s desire to lead the region, as it was a byproduct of the Arab Spring, requiring Turkey to take a leadership role as a non-Arab state in the midst of regional turmoil.
In implementing its neighborhood policy, Turkey advocated speaking to all sides. That includes mediating between Israel and Syria, and between Iran and the international community on the nuclear issue. Yet with the Arab Spring rolling on, Turkey can no longer maintain this policy with all of its neighbors; it has already cut support first to Libya and now to Syria.
Yet in the midst of all this political progress, Turkey now finds itself in a damaged relationship with Israel. Professor Bâli explained how the damage actually started before the Mavi Marmara attack that took place in May 30, 2010. She pointed to a clear intention by Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to engage with Israel on its long held regional policies from the onstet of the 2009 Gaza War, in which Israel had engaged in aerial bombardment of the Gaza Strip. PM Erdogan took Israel’s attack on Gaza very personally and made his feeling known publicly at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2009. Prime Minister Erdogan walked off the stage after an angry exchange with the Israeli President, Shimon Peres, during a panel discussion on Gaza.
After this incident, Prime Minister Erdogan gained new standing in the eyes of the regional Arab community because this was the first time a leader of the region had publicly criticized Israel. The effect this had on Turkey’s regional standing was immediate. As Professor Bâli pointed out, the harsh criticism of President Peres by Prime Minister Erdogan was the beginning of the decline of the Turkey-Israel relationship; the Mavi Marmara attack, which happened on May 31, 2010, only made things worse. In her closing remarks, Professor Bâli briefly touched on the fact that Israel’s self-isolation is very destructive for its position in the Middle East.
Professor Bâli also answered questions from the audience about the Kurdish issue and the ongoing KCK Operations. Professor Bâli explained how AKP, which showed an open mind for Kurdish rights back in 2005, returned to an ultra-nationalist response, militarizing the Kurdish issue with the recent arrests of civilian intellectuals and academics. Professor Bali didn’t have adequate time to provide an in-depth explanation for the audience, however she directed the audience to her recent interview with Jadaliyya about the Kurdish Rights and the KCK Operations.By Deniz Firat, Aslan Media Contributor
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