Mr. T. (Recep Tayyip Erdogan) and his pragmatism

By Ahmet Abidin Özbek:

His ego is so big and there is no costume to fit him.  He has continued to destroy democracy in the country, just like the others before him. After ten years of tyranny, he has become one of the richest officials in the history of Turkey since the Ottoman era. Actually, Mr. T.’s dream was turn his face to the Ottomans. But he doesn’t realize that his Sultan dream will end up in the swamp like Kemalism. The official history has never told us the truth about the bloody history of Kemalism and Ottomanism. We learnt it all after school.

Our official history has always lied to us about the facts. Like any other state it first lied to its own people. For example, I personally learnt a lot of facts about the Ottoman from the descendants of victims. Since I have met with a lot of people from Albania, Bosnia, Hungary, Greece, Syria or Iraq, I have listened to their sad stories about the past. The stories have passed from generation to generation.  Like any other empire, the Ottomans represented barbarism and vandalism. The sultans didn’t mind even to kill their own sons or fathers for power.

It is well documented how the Sultans’ armies massacred millions in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. It is big lie to say the Ottomans respected different religions, cultures and ethnicities. The Ottoman Empire exterminated many cultures or forced them to assimilate, including the Armenians, Greek Byzantines, Arabic culture and Alevis. Even the songs tell how the Ottoman have destroyed, massacred and occupied lands, and kidnapped young boys from their families to join an assassin army, which is called the Janissary in literature. What happened to all the young Albanian, Greek or Slavic boys? I remember that one of my Albanian friends in Spain was listening to very sad music about the kidnapped boys.  Anyway, today there are thousands of books and millions of pages, and museums that reveal about the massacres and the unofficial history of the Sultans which is still hidden in Turkey. Why do you think they didn’t open the entire Ottoman archive? Because it is a Pandora’s box.

So, what Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, aka Mr. T. ( who personifies himself as a Sultan), dreams about the Ottoman era is basically equivalent to death, massacre, pogrom and discrimination. He is not promoting something peaceful about the past. He naturally will support Ottomanism because it means the full-power of the Sultan, it means mass hatred, it means the distortion or destruction of cultures, except for the Sunni and Turkishness.

For example, he already declared the war against the Alevis. He doesn’t recognize the Alevism as a belief. On the contrary, he  is threating the Alevis because they are not following the Sunni-Islam doctrine.

He is also lying to the Kurds about his promises. His deal with the Kurds can be the subject of another article, but I would like add a couple of words here. The Kurds actually doesn’t believe anything that Mr. T.  says is called a “peace agreement”. In this matter, unfortunately, Mr. Ocalan also became a co-organizer of this false agreement. By the way, nobody knows yet what was the PKK’s role really was in the resolution of the Kurdish question after so many years, and if that 30 years of struggle was for the benefit of Kurdish people or the destruction of Kurdishness.

In fact, Mr. T. is the product of a combination of Ottomanism, Kemalism and Turkish-style feudal-capitalism.  However, after he became more powerful, even the creators of his cult became his victims (such as the generals from ‘Ergenekon’).

There are serious handicaps because many people, particularly outside of Turkey, don’t understand what is going on in Taksim or Gezi. It is beginning of a new revolution. Let’s go back inside Mr. T.’s  world or mind. What makes Mr. T. so powerful? Both Sunni-Islamism and Turkish nationalism are very powerful factors for votes or being a strong political party in Turkey. That’s exactly what the AKP has achieved and, actually, everything he dictated to the party has come to pass.  He has charisma like that of any other tyrant or dictator in history. Dangerously, he has used all the democratic patterns to establish a new style of fascism. He does exactly the same as any other state that has distorted the Muslim religion in a political manner to mask his own agenda. Unfortunately, the devil is in the details.

Lets look closely at his supporters. Actually, two kinds of people have supported him. First, there are the traditonal right wing groups in Turkey. There were various religious or right wing parties such as ANAP, DP, Refah Party, MHP, DYP etc.  Those conservative and also small bourgeois groups decided to give their support to the AKP. But, secondly, some liberal, social democrat and left groups also supported him because of his reform promises. Mostly, the Kurds or Alevis were skeptical but some of them supported him too.

So  Mr. T. has used his charisma, experience  and even tricks very well to gain the support of millions. They didn’t suspect anything phony about Mr. T.  Absurdly, they believed that he is promoting nothing other than peace, progress, equality and freedom.

We know that he has a charismatic personality and millions voted for and supported for him. However, we are forgetting more facts about him. Mr. T (Tayyip) is a product of 600 years of Ottomanism and 100 years of Kemalism. Ottomanism was imperial and based on the Sunni-fundamental sect and Kemalism was mostly based on Turkish racist theory or ideology. In fact, the Ottoman era never finished, and Kemalism became its new successor. So, Mr. T. is  a product of the system. If the corrupted system is not changed radically, whether there are Imams or the generals does not matter. That is the real landscape of Turkey. From bottom to top, the system is corrupted and it is no surprise that Mr. T. is in charge. If he goes tomorrow, the same system will produce a different name: Not, of course, for the benefit of people, workers, intellectuals and farmers but maybe for the politicians, imams, military personals, singers, soccer players and new gang or mafia boses.

Yes, the Kurdish and other minorities question is still vital in the country. However, there is something we are forgetting, our struggle not only shaped by our ethnic, religious and political views, but also by class. While millions of Kurds and Alevis are in poverty, it is hard to believe that some our own people want to continue to support the capitalist and feudal state. In the past, thousands of our people have already sacrified their blood, but they didn’t get anything except oppression. But, it is also important to mention that the political leaders of our society still enslave the masses for their own well-being and authoritarian rule.

Beyond all this, Mr. T  is not humanist but he is religious. He is not approaching the matter as a realist but as an idealist. Unfortunately, the reform challenge and the democratization of Islam in Turkey will fail, as in any other Muslim country. Since the regimes in Muslim countries don’t recognize democracy, the battle will never end. Mr. T. is a smart man and he knows where he is standing now. Absolutely, he is against democracy, multi-cultural society, secularism, socialism, non-believers and also class struggle. He is part of the kind of world-wide Muslim community that is against reform.  But our problem is not with religion and, of course, many Muslim groups are very moderate, secular, democratic and respectful of human rights. Mr. T. and his group do not belong to them. He likes to use religion for his benefit, and so he didn’t establish something different from the others. He is a little bit of everything. Possibly, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Sudan or some other totalitarian Muslim regimes became models for the AKP.

But he has also exploited the working class and villagers.  This means the rich became richer under the AKP’s Islamic capitalist model. We cannot separate the actual politics from today’s facts in the Islamic world.  The battle between the Muslim and secular people is one fact. But the class struggle is another fact. I mean that they are not true Muslims because the AKP or Mr. T. only represents the benefits of certain groups in Turkey, just as the Saudi royal family or Iran’s Mullahs do. That’s why Mr. T. is not really interested in democracy, although he would like to use it. Also, Mr. T. is not interested in reforming religion but he wants to continue the fatal mistakes that happened in the past. That’s why he cannot read the Ottoman history in a true way, or pursue peaceful perspectives to resolve conflicts. Naturally, he is a sectarian, religious man, not modern or secular. He is not against the Kemalists because he loves truly democracy. On the contrary, he does not believe in any kind of democracy within his sectarian agenda.

I would like to end my article with some words by Paul Kurtz, a long-time American humanist who passed away recently.

“Humanism provides a critique of alienating and depersonalizing tendencies, whether the source is religion, ideology, bureaucracy or theology. They are opposed to authoritarian or totalitarian forces that dehumanize man”.

Paul Kurtz, 1973. The Humanist alternative.  The meaning of the humanism. Preface. Prometheus books. Buffalo NY. ISBN 0.87975.013.8. page 89-92.

Copyright © 2013

2 Responses to Mr. T. (Recep Tayyip Erdogan) and his pragmatism
  1. Suleiyman
    July 17, 2013 | 10:01

    Your article is full of subjective assumptions. By just accusing someone of something it doesn’t mean that necessarily it is true. For example, I can say: you are dreaming to be the next biggest star journalist, but unless you openly state that in your work, my assumption will remain subjective. Ardogan has issues, but he has taken your country to levels never reached before in the history of modern Turkey. Until the mid 1990s no one really cared about Turkey on the International level.

    Then you come and accuse Ardogan of lying to the Kurds in the peace process. Do you have proof of that? And you disregard what Ocalan did by signing the peace agreement. Lets just say you have a preset argument that you twist facts and opinions to fit that agenda. I have yet to read one positive article from you about the Turkish-Kurdish issue, and while I think the Turks have been brutal to the Kurds, I also must state to you that lately the Kurds have enjoyed more rights than ever, and there actually is objective data to support this claim, and not just personal emotional claims. We have a role to make things better in our societies and not just instigate, because polarization would push things towards division. Look at Egypt. Thank you for the writing, my friend.

  2. alan
    July 17, 2013 | 21:33

    Thank you Ahmet for this insightful article. Don’t be put off by critics (who are entitled their opinions, of course, and will maybe write august articles of their own one day). Your humanist approach reflects an important strand of opinion. Please keep writing.

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