Turkey’s Internal Islamist Dangerous Tensions

Rebwar Reshid

By Rebwar Rashed:

The birth of the state of Turkey from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire in 1923 meant major changes. Mustafa Kemal, the Ataturk, as a president had the opportunity to put his ultra-nationalistic project into practice by forcing large political changes on the people of the area; for example, by waging a fanatical war against the others such as Armenians, Assyrians and Kurds to the point of extermination and assimilation: the demographic changes of the area, changing the names of the people, villages, towns, cities, mountains, valleys, songs, literature, music and folklore of the people of the area, was just the beginning of a long assimilation process.

Ataturk’s aim was to build a Turkish nation of “new” Turks. Thus, everything after 29th October 1923 was Turkish and belonged to the “New” Turks.

In order to realize his dream he knew that there had to be other changes which would transform the Turks into new beings. The Turks started to have a new look, with new clothes which almost copied Europeans. Many Turks inherited enormous wealth after a successful subjugation of other nationalities; they simply took over the wealth of those people they killed. It was a national political thievery that was justified by the state and its leaders. Taking over Assyrians, Armenians and Kurdish wealth was an organized and conscious political crime.

The new-made Turkey started to belong to the “new” Turks, but there were still obstacles.

Ataturk started to force secularism harshly and mercilessly on a very religious Turkish people. The only identity the Turks had and were proud of was Islam. Ataturk took it from them and locked it behind thick walls of political power.

He changed the Ottoman script from Arabic to Latin and soon a new Turkish Qur’an took over from the Arabic version. This helped to change the language of Islamic worship into a Turkish version.

By 10th November 1938, the day Ataturk died, there were millions of “new” Turks. Happy or not, was not the issue. The issue was that they lacked collective guilt then, as they still do.

Answering Ataturk’s racial extermination is the picture behind the Kurds revolt for national and democratic rights. It´s also the picture behind the Armenians’ and the Assyrians’ plea to get an apology, an understanding and a fair compensation for the pain and suffering they have faced.

It is also the picture behind today´s nostalgia for Islam in Turkey. The Turkish Islamists crave to see the great days of Islam again as they see themselves as victims. Ataturk reminds them of everything evil.

They had to wait many years to have the power to rise up.

It took almost half of a century for the Turks to regain Islam. The Milli Nizam Partisi, MNP (National Order Party) was an Islamist political party founded in 1970 by Necmettin Erbakan. But it lasted only a year and a few months. It was dismantled as it violated the articles of secularism, as it was said. The Moslem Turks didn´t give up their Islamist ambitions. They established Millî Selâmet Partisi, MSP (National Salvation Party) in October 1972. This was again led by Necmettin Erbakan. It soon became a popular party but again it was closed down in the military coup of 1980.

The 1980s were bad years for many “new” Turks who did not want to be so “new” in the way Ataturk had dreamed. By 1980, there were terrible devastation in the Kurdistan area from the killing, deportation and assimilation of Kurds. At the same time there was also a psychological and political war, albeit an undeclared one, against the Islamists.

But, in 1983, Turks announced a Refah Partisi (Welfare Party/ RP) which became the largest party in the parliament and was banned in 1998 by the military.[1] The Fazilet Partisi (Virtue Party) was established soon after in December 1998 and it was also banned in June 2001.[2]

The Turkish Islamists were now immune to the punitive measures and kept on trying.

The Virtue party’s reformist wing formed the Justice and Development Party (AKP). History witnessed the AKP was not at all so moderate and reformist-minded as it sounded then.  The hardliners among the Islamists founded the Saadet Partisi (Felicity Party) in 2001, which was mainly supported by conservative Muslims in Turkey. It was the Felicity Party that mobilized thousands of protesters in demonstrations against Israeli- and American “intervention”. (Examples include the bitterness against the US army in 2003 after Saddam Hussein’s. fall, the aggressive and angry protests in 2004 against the US attack on Fallujah in Iraq, protests against the naming and drawing of Muhammad, the Islam Prophet, in newspapers around the world, responses to Israel-Palestine war in Gaza in 2008–2009, etc.)

It is worth mentioning that there is an outlawed Islamic party, namely “The Hizb ut-Tahrir”[3] which claims to have been established in 1953. It is a pan-Islamic party which calls for establishing a Caliphate in every Islamic country and has a project then to make a union by collecting everyone in an Islam nation. The name is Arabic and means “The Liberation Party” [4] which is outlawed in Turkey and other countries. The party´s name is the same no matter the country and haven´t been translated to other languages.

Strange enough, The Hizb ut-Tahrir reminds people a lot of today´s AKP party. The similarity of ideological beliefs are plentiful, i.e. liberating Palestine, calling Jerusalem by its Arabic name “Al-Quds” and seeing it as an occupied place which must be liberated, spreading Islam and uniting Islam as a Nation, etc. The party also reminds one of ISIS/ IS in an almost detailed manner, both ideologically and polemically: for instance, the banner of the party is the same as the IS/ ISIS banner as it´s black and there is the Islam confession of faith (Shahada) [5] on it, though in a different script style. (Saudi Arabia has the same flag but with a green background and a sword beneath the confession of faith).

It has come to public knowledge that many members of the Turkish Ergenekon were indeed members of other fascistic and Islamic organizations [6] such as Hizb ut-Tahrir [7] and there were hundreds of arrests in Turkey in 2008 and 2009.[8]

In the ‘90s the Turkish ultra-nationalists and fascists had established a “Kurdish” Hezbollah so they could use it against Kurdish liberation movement. The same Turkish people were against every kind of Islamism in Turkish Anatolia. This move was a new tactic to fight Kurdish progressive groups under the name of “Kurdish” Hezbollah. It seems that the Turkish establishment is well aware of the politics behind it because the Turkish media always emphasizes specifically the word “Kurdish” Hezbollah. The Turks have a history of using Islam against Kurds, so it is not so problematic for the Kurdish liberation movement to tackle this even though it costs Kurds lives and pain. The “Kurdish Hezbollah” is part of the paramilitary, linked to Village Guards and MIT officials.

In 2003, when the PKK became stronger, the Turks all of a sudden made a new move by founding an association called “Solidarity with the Oppressed (Mustazaflar ile Dayanışma Derneği or Mustazaflar Hareketi), the “Menzil group”, which also calls itself “Kurdish”. The group worked and still works as death squads against Kurdish people. The state was enjoying itself by referring to “internal Kurdish dispute”.

It is not a secret that the AKP and the Islamist establishment in Turkey have spent and are still spending enormous amounts of money in order to make it easy to the group to enter the Kurdish public sphere. On 18th April 2010 the group organized a mass meeting in Diyarbakir (Amed in Kurdish) to celebrate the anniversary of the Muhammad’s birthday which is known as Mawlud (the Birth of the Prophet), in Arabic. The state officials of Turkey marketed the event as one of the biggest “celebrations” of Muhammad’s birthday which, according to the official sources, gathered crowds of 120,000 people.

Following some up and downs of smearing campaigns among various Islamic scholars in Turkey, it seems that the AKP was behind organizing the Association for the Oppressed (Mustazaf-Der) to gain a platform and money. The AKP have lent grassroots support to them too. This was behind the head of the Association´s announcement on 17th December 2012 of the founding of a new party, the “Free Cause Party” (Hür Dava Partisi) which has its own general headquarters located in Ankara, the heart of Turkishness. Just after this, the party started to open its branches in the Kurdistan area.

Almost everybody in Turkey knows that Hezbollah is indeed a Turkish Hezbollah, not a “Kurdish” one.  This party has no enmity towards the Turkish state and doesn’t bother to enquire into Turkish oppression of the Kurds and is not at all critical about the political, social and economic situation of Kurdish people. As a matter of fact, it only scares Kurds, threatens them and murders them. The “Kurdish” Hezbollah shows itself only during Kurdish mass protests against the state and acts exactly as extra police and paramilitary forces. The mission of “Kurdish” Hezbollah is to fight the Kurdish liberation and Kurdish secularist movement.

The Turkish Islamists, especially the AKP, which has money and resources, do everything to organize Kurdish Muslims. For instance, another organization by the name Peygamber Sevdalıları (Turkish)/ Evindarên Pêyxamber (Kurdish)/ Lovers of Prophet Mohammad is an organization which is affiliated to “Hezbollah”/ Huda-Par. The organization uses religious songs and music for Muhammad’s birthday (Arabic: Milad an-Nabi), knowing that the Kurds love music and song and have a tradition of religious music.

Back in October 2014, when Kurdish people in Turkey started to go on mass protests against Turkish support to the Islamist terrorist group ISIS/IS, the Turkish Special Forces – which are usually described by state officials as the “local police force” – killed at least 60 Kurdish people and wounded some 300. The killing of Kurdish protesters has continued through the last days of 2014 and the beginning of 2015. Turkey has begun a war against Kurdish people in Turkey in order to prevent them from having time to support their sisters and brothers in Rojava.

On 27th December, there were armed incidents in the Kurdish town of Cizre. Three Kurdish individuals were killed and bullets were fired almost blindly in the neighborhood. Not one single actor in the Turkish establishment hesitated to announce with the speed of light that the PKK and “Kurdish” Hezbollah were fighting and blaming each other for the attack. The Turkish media was using “Islamist Kurds” systematically. Their joy expressed the satisfaction.

It’s obvious that Turkey is doing everything it can to find an alternative to the Kurdish liberation movement. The Islamic alternative seems favorable to the Turks. The narrative of showing the PKK as a communist and anti-Islam force is still a part of Turkish psychological warfare. In much of the political literature of the ISIS/ IS and other Arabic Islamist groups in Syria, such as Jabhat al-Nusra, one can read that the PKK is a communist anti-Islam force, a force made by the West World to wage a proxy war against Turkey and Islam in the Middle East.

The bitter fight between the Fethullah Gülen movement and the Erdoğan wing requires a separate chapter. In short, the Gulinists, the Erdoğanists and other Islamic sorts are in a great disagreement and therefore in a bitter war against each other. And almost all of them dislike the Alawites. This is deepening every passing day and it could lead to a civil war among Turks. Turkey is never safer than Iraq, Libya, Syria or Lebanon. Turkey is a Middle East Moslem country.

Turkish people and Anatolian Turkey (without Kurdistan) are dangerously divided and polarized. There is no doubt that the AKP and many of its grassroots still constitute the dominant movement among Turks, but there are other sorts of Islamist Turks who are numerous and very unhappy with everything that happens; there seems to be a fermentation that is happening slowly but surely.

Today´s Turkish society, which is a result of Ataturk’s model of “new” Turks, has a very fragile composition and many questions to answer. It cannot withstand the harsh tests of history.


[1] http://www.theguardian.com/world/1998/jan/17/turkey

[2] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/1402927.stm

[3] http://www.hilafet.com/html/bynlr/2012/0288.html

[4] http://www.hizb-ut-tahrir.org/arabic/

[5] http://www.questionsonislam.com/article/1-confession-faith-shahada

(“La ilah illa Allah, Muhammad rasoolu Allah.”). The Party has an official Face book page too: https://tr-tr.facebook.com/TurkiyeMedyaOfisi

[6] http://www.todayszaman.com/national_close-relation-between-hizb-ut-tahrir-ergenekon-exposed_182248.html

[7] http://www.milliyet.com.tr/hizb-ut-tahrir/

[8] http://www.haber7.com/guncel/haber/611527-ergenekon-sanigi-tegmenden-hizb-ut-tahrir-itirafi

Rebwar Rashed has a Ph.D. degree in Political Science. He has translated several books into Kurdish and also written many articles in Kurdish and English about the Kurdistan National Liberation Movement, human rights, anti-Semitism, equality between the sexes and ethnicities, and the need for a democratic and peaceful struggle.

One Response to Turkey’s Internal Islamist Dangerous Tensions
  1. Amy L Beam
    January 21, 2015 | 00:15

    Dr. Rashed has written one the best current analyses of the internal strife among Turks and how propaganda is used against its Kurdish liberation movement.

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