Sunday, July 17, 2016

Turkey between civilizations

Of course everybody must condemn the failed coup attempt in Turkey. But the event will probably be used by Erdogan to start persecutions of both people involved in the attempt plus all other real and supposed opponents of the autocrat. Persecutions possibly on a scale and severity that may make some wish that the coup had succeeded. And make broader parts of the military wish they had participated.

Like other populists Erdogan appeals to hitherto marginalized parts of the population. People who have not followed the establishments modernization in mentality, culture and education. Like Erdogan so Trump, Le Pen, Orbán etc. but in Turkey this is complicated by the division caused by the westernization of the originally Oriental civilization introduced by Ataturk. This westernization only really transformed a part of the population. The other large part stayed more Oriental. But for decades they submitted as a passive silent marginalized half. With the AKP and Erdogan they have woken and gained a voice. Unlike elsewhere, in addition to the division between established and marginalized people comes the division between civilizations, between westernized parts of society and the remnants of the Oriental civilization. Like elsewhere in the Middle East these remnants struggle to resist the assimilation into the dominating Western civilization. The difference in civilization makes the division in Turkish society and the return of the marginalized more dangerous than the division between the establishment and its opponents in Europe and America.

Before these developments Turkey was a block of stability and approaching a modern democracy mature for EU-membership. Beginning to overcome the old divisions through room for pluralism of different people within the same society. A uniting party like the HDP was a product of this development. But Erdogan has ended this. He stirs up polarization and animosity. Between modernists and traditionalists, between westernized and Oriental, between Turks and Kurds.

After 1850 Turkey has gone through terrible phases of Ethnic cleansing of the type typical for the Oriental world under change from its old patchwork-nations to coherent western type territorial states. This seemed to be finally reaching its end with a pluralistic democracy being approached. But with the reappearing polarization and the coming to power of representatives of the marginalized more Oriental part of the population now beyond influence from the other half, it can be feared that forms of ethnic cleansing like pressure for assimilation may return. The secular parts as well as the sum of all parts of Turkey was on a stage after ethnic cleansing. The more Oriental part may not be. First affected are the Kurds and then perhaps the Alevis?

In sum Turkey risks disintegrating along lines of politics, civilization and ethnicity.

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