Ashgabat, 9 July 2013 (nCa) [on this site – 25 July 2013] — In order to understand the situation in Turkey, there are many issues that need to be treated, first separately and then in various combinations.
For instance, the significance of the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923 and why it continues to matter, the difference and similarities between the Alawites of Syria and Alevis of Turkey, the demographic composition of Turkey, the inexplicable pursuit of EU membership that has distorted the internal equation of Turkey, the raw ends of the question of a unified national identity, etc.
However, the brazen ouster of Morsi in Egypt has forced me to wrap up this series. Consequently, this is the last episode of ‘The Turkish Glum’ and the next series would be titled ‘How to Prevent a Revolution.’
This being the last part of ‘The Turkish Glum,’ I will touch briefly the key areas.
The trouble in Turkey is not associated with any failure of Erdogan and AKP. On the contrary, their main fault is that they have done too well.
The per capita GDP (PPP) in Turkey was US $ 8861 in 2004. This has nearly doubled to US $ 16885.
The average CPI inflation rate from 1993 to 2002 was 70.4%. It was 10.45% in 2012.
The unemployment rate was 14% in 2009. It had shrunk to 10.3% by 2012, in clear contrast to the most of the rest of the world.
The public debt as % of GDP was 40% in 2008. It had been whittled down to 36% by 2012.
In 2002, in terms of nominal GDP, Turkey was 21st largest economy in the world, now it is 17th (15th in PPP).
There has hardly been any other period in the history of modern Turkey where one can find such consistent pattern of economic growth.
Some of the trouble is attached to the Treaty of Lausanne (Switzerland) of 24 January 1923. This treaty officially ended the state of war between Turkey (Ottoman Empire) and British Empire, France, Italy, Japan, Greece, Romania, and Serb-Croat-Slovene state.
The Turkish delegation was led by İsmet İnönü. The chief negotiator of the Allies was Lord Curzon, then the British Foreign Secretary.
Over the course of several months, İsmet İnönü, who was hard of hearing and used to take off his hearing aid when Curzon was speaking and then repeat his arguments all over again, frustrated everyone to the point that he managed to get most of what he wanted from this treaty.
The treaty led to formal and final severance of Cyprus from Turkey, and separation of Egypt, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Arabian Peninsula territories (Yemen, Asir, Hejaz, Medina), and Libya.
It is curious to note that all of the Muslim territories separated from Turkey under the Treaty of Lausanne have seen violent regime change in recent years, that is, all except Saudi Arabia. Sudan simply got bifurcated and Syria is on the front burner.
Under the Treaty, Hatay province remained a part of the French Mandate of Syria, got independence as HatayState in 1938, and through a referendum in 1939 joined Turkey. Syria doesn’t recognize this; France doesn’t like this.
Quite apart from the fact that the Allies couldn’t extract more from a fallen Ottoman Empire, the Treaty of Lausanne created a mould that cannot be broken, no matter what: Europe doesn’t consider Turkey its equal.
When the delegation of İsmet İnönü arrived for talks, they were given broken, inferior chairs whereas the Allied delegates had plush, high-backed chairs. When İnönü objected to this, the laconic reply was that enough chairs of good quality were not available.
İnönü left the meeting hall and boarded the train back to Turkey, saying that we shall return when you can find better chairs for us. —– Needless to say, the chairs were found while the İnönü train was passing through the territory of France, not very far from Lausanne.
The refusal to acknowledge this unpleasant fact – Europe cannot share house with Turkey – is at the root of some of the problems today.
Had Turkey concentrated on building and polishing its own unique identity instead of bowing low and further low to European demands, demands quite unreasonable, to gain entry to the European club, things could have been different. Europe has been shifting goal posts without having the moral courage to say that EU is a Christian club and Turkey is not welcome.
In any case, as the things today, EU and its institutions including Euro, teetering on the brink, are not a particularly attractive destination for Turkey, a country that has weathered the financial and economic crisis better than most.
Also, Germany, the historical ally of Turkey, is finally out in the open. German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, said recently about Turkish bid for EU, “We should not accept Turkey as a full member . . . Turkey is not part of Europe.”
Earlier in June 2013, Germany blocked the next step in EU membership talks for Turkey, citing the treatment of Taksim square protestors by the Turkish government. However, the same Germany seems quite content with the massacre of Egyptian protestors by the army.
The pursuit of EU has robbed Turkey of its own unified identity. What does it mean to be a Turk? How does the proud heritage of centuries merge with the undefined aspirations for the future? A cup or a stem glass?
By jettisoning this unwieldy desire of EU membership, Turkey can travel lighter and faster.
Then, there is the matter of demographics. About 17% of the Turkish population is between the age of 15 and 24. Nearly half of them are not old enough to vote but quite grown to participate in anything that looks like an adventure. This age group is by nature foolishly daring and unbelievably easy to sway in any which direction and I shall return to it in the next series ‘How to Prevent a Revolution.’
The similarities and differences between the Alawites of Syria and the Alevi of Turkey are also relevant in the context of the present wave of unrest.
The Alawites of Syria are about 12% of the population. Assad is an Alawite. Some of their beliefs put them on the outermost fringes of the Shia branch of Islam but Imam Khomeini recognized them as Shia through his official Fatwa. They are mostly ethnic Arabs.
The Alevi of Turkey are mostly non-Arab and predominantly Turkic, many of them Turkmen. They are followers of several Sufi versions, basically Bektash Veli and Yunus Emre. They are either Shia or very close to being Shia. Shah Ismail Safavi of the Turkish Alevi started the Safvi dynasty in Iran that made Iran for the first time in history a predominantly Shia country. His mother and the mother of the Ottoman Emperor, Shah Selim, were blood sisters.
The current Turkish support of Syrian insurgency is a trigger for several processes, none of them beneficial for Turkey. It would have been better to ignore the western pressure and remain neutral.
The Taksim syndrome is anchored to may interested entities; one of them is the Genç Siviller, or Young Civilians. They were trained by the US State Department in 2009. They are using the same textbook techniques pioneered by Gene Sharp and perfected in various permutations and combinations by a wide assortment of power players and financiers.
Being at the forefront in overthrowing a very stable government in Pakistan, long before Sharp came with his cookbook, I know a thing or two about regime change. And, I know how ridiculously easy it can be. That is where we shall start the next series ‘How to Prevent a Revolution.’