My vision of modern Turkey was occluded. The west view of the orient
has always been a distorted projection of its own negative cultural
capabilities, and I had absorbed plenty on the Turkish downside.
The vast oblong territory between the black sea and the Mediterranean,
the Middle East and the Aegean, styles itself as a democratic,
modernising bulwark against Islamic fundamentalism. But was Turkey also
the implacable pursuer of territorial claims in Cyprus and Kurdistan,
which meant that the former had remained for three decades with its
sovereignty in escrow, and the latter an unmentionable word, a
Shortly before I arrived, the case of Abdullah Ocalan, the Kurdish
rebel leader captured by the Turks and sentenced to death, was referred
to the European Court of Human rights. The Turkish government had
agreed to abide by the courts decision, and in a sense this was the
very pivot around which Turkish membership to the European
Community-still a matter of debate-revolved.
Despite what has been achieved in Turkey during the last 80 years of
Kemalism, presented in Turkey as an ideology by the ‘father of the
Turks’-Ataturk, those achievements remain permanently in question. Vast
numbers of Turks must realise that they will either be openly non
Muslim, or “post-Muslim’’ or as we are informed are already largely
“post-Christian”. The worry is that all these can be traded up or down
(depending on your point of view) to the real Kemalist thing: TURK’TEN
BASKA DOSTU YOKTUR (The only friends of the Turks are Turks).
In rural Turkey there are more such people than there are the kind of
Turks whom tourists and American officials meet on their careful
itineraries. Go off the beaten track and try the Mevlevi Festival. Held
each year in the week preceding Rumi’s death-17th December 1273. Rumi
was an Afghan poet whose works has been compared to that of
Join the pilgrim, eat Kebab, discuss religion and science (I am the
Kebab God is the gut) then eat Kebab again. It is difficult not to
think of this nation as a fervid-to-overheated kind of a place,
physically proximate, but linguistically and culturally isolated.
Thus, when the issue of Turkey is discussed attention is restricted to
Turkey’s role as a model to the Moslem world. There is another respect
to which Turkey should be a role model, which is of no slight
significance: the West.
We often overlook a rather important fact, that Turkish awful human
rights record rely crucially on a) massive US military support and b)
the cowardice and dishonesty of artists, academics, journalists,
publishers and others who refuse to permit the US role be known.
Turkey has been a close ally to the US since World War II, then a
launching pad of nuclear missiles, and also as part of a ring of
peripheral states that protects US interests in the crucial
energy-producing regions in the Middle East. It is assumed that Turkey,
despite tensions with Iran-a natural trading partner, will be a loyal
client and it’s entry into the EU, it is expected, will dilute the
influence of Germany and France, the economic power houses of Europe.
But to allow into the EU a country of almost 70 million people, to move
freely, about the entire European community without control or
oversight is a security nightmare.
When Turkey’s application is turned down, the Turkish authorities
working with the Americans, should long before have prepared to place
the blame where the blame is due: the bad image of inoffensive and
moderate Turkish Islam. Let Turkish fury be vented not at “Christian”
Europe but those who they can pretend have perverted Islam.
In that way, the rejection of Turkey’s membership might lead to a
renewal of Kemalism, the wider understanding that Turkish identity is
far more than Islam, that it predates it.