Jun 26 2018

Turkey pulled by two tides - Elif Şafak

What is happening in Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul, can be viewed as a struggle “between religion and secularism, tribalism and globalism, nationalism and humanism, those who want to monopolise power and never let go and those who believe in pluralistic democracy,” wrote novelist Elif Şafak on the political news website Politico on Tuesday, following nationwide presidential and parliamentary elections over the weekend.

This struggle, said Şafak, would intensify in future, as inequalities grow, breeding resentment and as Turkey is pulled in different directions by two prevailing tides.

“The first tide,” she wrote, “is shaped by ultranationalistic paranoia, a political Islamic agenda and conspiracy theories. Authoritarianism does not only corrupt politics and politicians. Sadly, it also damages the soul of the civil society and of millions of individual citizens. If this tide - already so dominant - continues to pick up speed it will only exacerbate anger, aggression, isolation and tribalism, and could lead to a search for new, unlikely alliances in the East or the Middle East. This trend will not disappear in 2025. But will it be dominant enough to pull the entire nation into its dark path?”

The other, “is one that sees Turkey as a globally connected nation and longs for a true, pluralistic democracy. It is shaped by the relentless energies and efforts of the youth, of women, minorities and segments of the civil society that want a better future for their children. There are many people in Turkey who are fed up with the status quo, and there will be even more so by 2025. There are many who have been mistreated, hurt, ostracised, stigmatised. The feeling of injustice and hurt pervades every segment of the society.”

Whichever tide dominates, Turkey’s geopolitical importance to the West remain undiminished:  Turkey is too important to be ignored and the world is now so interconnected that, “what happens in one part of the world exerts influence on the lives of people elsewhere.”