Yusuf Kanlı

Tangent or bull’s-eye?

1 Temmuz 2009
The word "tangent" comes from the Latin "tangere," meaning, "to touch." Wikipedia explains that in geometry, the tangent line (or, simply, the tangent) to a curve at a given point is the straight line that "just touches" the curve at that point. As it passes through the point of tangency, the tangent line is "going in the same direction" as the curve, and, in this sense, it is the best straight-line approximation to the curve at that point. A "bulls-eye," on the other hand, means the "focal point" or "center point" of a target.

Now, the question: Did the global economic crisis pass Turkey tangentially, or did it hit Turkey on the bulls-eye?

Unemployment figures are bizarre! According to official statistics, which for obvious reasons take into account only the "registered economy," almost one in five Turks is unemployed. The situation for youth is even more dreadful - one in every three is unemployed. If the unregistered economy, women (particularly in rural areas) and those who have given up hope of employment and no longer are seeking jobs are added to this bleak picture, it could be concluded that Turkey has never been in such a terrible situation.

Even the statistics of the 1940s, when Turkey was rationing bread during World War II, though it successfully managed to stay out of that calamity, show that the country’s economy was performing far better than it is today. Regarding capacity utilization, again according to official figures, the best-performing industries that managed to remain open in spite of the crisis are producing almost at half capacity. The Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges, or TOBB, reported the closure of thousands of small and medium-sized enterprises over just the past few months. Yet the government is still claiming that the global economic crisis has passed Turkey tangentially.

Record negative growth

If, by the time this article reaches readers, the Turkish Statistical Institute, or TürkStat, does not recall its report and issue a new one with improved figures, the first-quarter performance of the Turkish economy underscores the reality that annual growth of up to 8 percent will probably be replaced this year with a record negative growth.

International agencies, as well as the World Bank, have already forecasted negative growth of more than 6 percent for Turkey in 2009. I am afraid the situation will be far worse than that.

According to the data released by TürkStat yesterday, in the first quarter of 2009, the Turkish economy shrunk as though the country was in a state of war, or perhaps worse. The data released by the government agency - which has, unfortunately, established a notorious reputation with "updates" to its own published reports that portray the government as "more successful" than it actually has been - showed that Turkey’s gross national product in the first quarter of this year shrunk by an unprecedented 13.8 percent, much higher than the anticipated negative 12 percent growth.

Compared to the last quarter of 2008, when Turkish GNP shrunk by 6.2 percent, the 13.8 percent negative growth of the Turkish economy demonstrated clearly that the global crisis indeed did not pass tangentially; coupled with the domestic crisis, it has instead hit the country on the bulls-eye.

Originally the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government forecasted a growth of 4 percent for the Turkish economy in 2009. Later, that figure was revised to a negative 3.6 percent growth. It is now becoming apparent that not only the government’s negative 3.6 percent growth target, but also the World Bank’s anticipated negative 6 percent growth rate will have to be revised with some more realistic and bitter figures, underscoring the incredible negative successes of the AKP government on the economy this year.

Yet, rather than discussing the dreadful state of affairs of the Turkish economy, the country is wasting time debating the authenticity of an alleged "military" photocopy-plan said to be aimed at stopping the AKP and the Islamist Fethullah Gülen brotherhood organization. To me, this appears to be nothing more than the latest bullet fired at the credibility of the Turkish Armed Forces in a bid to clear the way for the Islamist advance in the country.
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Extraordinary meetings

30 Haziran 2009
Turkey’s top general met yesterday morning with Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan. It was the second "extraordinary" meeting in two weeks between Erdoğan and Chief of General Staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ. According to a "tradition" established in the last months in office of former Chief of Staff Yaşar Büyükanıt, the prime minister and the top general of the country meet "regularly" on Thursdays before or after, depending on the president’s schedule, a weekly routine presidential reception of the prime minister. The first extraordinary meeting came on June 16 amid publication in a newspaper of an alleged "military plan" aimed at stopping the advance of the AKP and the Islamist Fethullah Gülen brotherhood organization. Last week the meeting was held Thursday as scheduled. This week, however, the two came together Monday, this time ahead of the scheduled meeting of the National Security Council, or MGK, to be held at Çankaya Palace today and where Başbuğ disclosed last week he would raise the military’s frustration regarding what he described as a systematic and asymmetric psychological campaign against the Turkish Armed Forces. Başbuğ, who after coming to office last August declared that he would not appear in front of the media frequently and that he was planning to have only an annual media event, has started hosting a news conference almost once a month to counter the increasing attacks on the military, particularly in the media allegiant to the government. At the last press conference the top general had condemned as "a piece of paper" the alleged "military plan" to get rid of the AKP and the Gülen group and underlined that military prosecutors concluded there was no reason to prosecute a colonel serving in his office, the alleged author of the plan.

But, he said, if new evidence were found against the colonel, the military prosecutors would obviously look into the matter once again as the colonel could only be judged at a military tribunal. Some 10 hours before the top commander spoke, however, the AKP parliamentary majority made a midnight operation, and with an addition to a draft under debate, stripped the power of military courts and empowered civilian courts to judge officers charged with coup or coup attempt or crimes that require heavy penalty. Hours after the top commander spoke, on the other hand, in a manner as if he was responding to Başbuğ, Erdoğan reiterated that his government considered the alleged document as a "plan" not just a "piece of paper" and that the military would cleanse itself of coup plotters. The top general stated he would take the issue to the MGK meeting, and the prime minister continued the offensive. Naturally, ahead of the MGK meeting it was only normal for the prime minister and the top general to review the situation.

April 2010

Yet, the meeting will most likely not succeed in diffusing the tension because the AKP might not have any such intention if what we have started to hear from deep throats in politics are indeed reflect the present mindset of the premier and his top aides in the AKP. According to "unverified" rumors, Erdoğan has asked his vice chairmen in the AKP to get prepared for snap polls, as early as April 2010.

In the last local polls held on March 29, the ruling AKP lost more than eight percentage points compared to 2007 parliamentary elections. The decrease in the vote share was seen the first time in the history of the AKP, which was established less than one year before the 2002 parliamentary elections. However, while few months before the 2007 vote public opinion polls were indicating a sharp decrease in the AKP’s vote share, but after a campaign heavily dominated by a secularism, religious rights and the right of the "religious Turks" to send a "religious president" to the Çankaya presidential office, the AKP vote share skyrocketed to 47 percent. But, in the 2009 local polls, after a campaign dominated mostly by the economy, the vote share of the ruling party depreciated to 38 percent. With economic-political pundits claiming that a stronger wave of the economic crisis was likely to hit Turkey next spring and political deep throats claiming snap polls might come as early as April 2010 and with the conviction in the AKP that in a highly polarized society engulfed in a serious "counter revolution" paranoia help the ruling party win more in elections, is there logic in waiting for the prime minister and the AKP to try to diffuse tension in the country?
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Obstinate governance

29 Haziran 2009
While it appears Turkey will not anytime soon have a transparent governance conforming with the notion of supremacy of law, it sure has acquired a perfect example of obstinate governance thanks to the "high leadership qualifications" of Prime Minister Erdoğan and the "democracy devotion" of his AKP. Though it has not yet reached the level of the late Turgut Özal who was famous with his, "What if we violate a constitutional article for once?" brilliant understanding of the supremacy of law, the premier and his party are marching in full determination to set equally important examples of arbitrary rule and thus set some "great examples" for future governments.

The premier’s "Take your mother and go!" remark to a villager in Mersin complaining about the perishing state of affairs of Turkish farmers due to the great achievements of the government in the agriculture sector has become some sort of an adage for those involved in governance as it underscored in all clarity the limits between the ruled and the ruler in Erdoğan’s understanding. In subsequent trips of the premier to Mersin, the local authorities demonstrated how well they got the message from the great saying of the premier. In one instance the same villager was taken under police detention for more than 10 hours "for his own security" and of course to prevent him angering the premier once again. In another instance, the villager was confined to house arrest.

That was of course an exceptional case, like thousands of others in various areas, which should not be exaggerated by some insolent and impudent journalists or opposition figures.

The AKP government and the premier are committed to justice and supremacy of law, when at issue is dispatching prosecutors and police on the residences, bureaus or university offices of the critics in the middle of the night, placing under detention opponent nationalists and patriots for months without an official charge brought against them. However, when it came to some alleged Islamist bandits claimed to have siphoned billions of euros from an Islamist charity foundation, because of the respect to justice, supremacy of law and the principle of equality of all in front of law, the premier and his government have been doing whatever possible to stall justice and refuse to authorize judicial proceedings against the head of an autonomous high board, claimed to have been involved in the sham as a courier in transferring the siphoned funds to the establishments of political Islam in Turkey.

It is not easy to find another example anywhere in the world of a premier and a government, which proudly declares itself the "prosecutor" of a police-intelligence operation and a judicial case on an alleged "organized coup attempt" by some nationalists and patriots, that is the so-called Ergenekon probe and the judicial case, while on the other hand engaged in an effort to stall in any way possible the Turkey leg of a fraud case declared by the German court as the worst fraud case in recent German history.

Why is this double standard or why is this hypocritical approach to justice? Perhaps to understand what is happening in Turkey nowadays is embedded in an answer to this question.

At a crossroads

Last week, Turkey experienced a rather awkward midnight legislative operation, just about 10 hours before the top general of the country appeared in front of the media to condemn as "nothing more than a piece of paper" an alleged "military plan" aimed at stopping the AKP and the Islamist Fethullah Gülen brotherhood organization. While the top general was proudly declaring that investigations by the military prosecutors have shown that there was no reason to prosecute an officer alleged to have written the plan (of which no original was so far found and the entire discussion has been continuing on a photocopy of it), the AKP majority in Parliament added a paragraph in the middle of the night to a draft under debate and empowered civilian courts to judge officers accused of activities against the civilian government.

Such a move, of course, has to be applauded under normal conditions. No one would oppose the trial of officers by a civilian court if they are engaged in a criminal activity against a civilian government or trying to topple a government. But, the way the amendment was made, unfortunately, provided just another example of the obstinate governance understanding of the AKP. In Turkey we have a saying. Strong vinegar hurts its jar first.
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Asymmetric war!

27 Haziran 2009
Chief of General Staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ was in front of news people. The top general was clear in describing an alleged "military plan," said to be aimed to stop the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, and the Islamist Fethullah Gülen brotherhood organization, as a "piece of paper" which was not prepared in the military headquarters or by an officer and which has no legal validity what so ever. "Who and with what purpose this piece of paper, that has no validity at all, was prepared? We want this question to be answered. We have sent the file to the Istanbul Prosecutor’s Office. We are not asking whether this paper is authentic or not, we are asking the authors of it be found ... We want to express that the duty of answering this question rests with the intelligence organizations of the state and the relevant judicial organs. We demand an answer to our question," the top general said, adding that the Turkish military was faced with an "asymmetric war" or "psychological war" conducted through the media. "We want this psychological war to be ended," he said.

This alleged "plan" that the top general said has no value further than "a piece of paper" has hurt the prestige of the military. Indeed, with allegations and unverified claims splashed on the front pages or TV screens, over the past two years the prestige of the Turkish military has been hurt a lot, though even today the military still enjoys the nation’s confidence.

Another of the top general’s important statements was that the military would respect the supremacy of law, undertake whatever was required, but would not launch a witch-hunt against officers alleged to have committed crimes unless there was sufficient evidence supporting the allegations.

Until yesterday, senior commanders of the country were telling news people that the military was faced with a smearing campaign. However, for the first time the top commander said the military was subjected to an asymmetric or psychological war that has been waged "systematically."

This point was as important as the description by Başbuğ of the alleged "military plan" as "nothing further than a piece of paper" because it reflected the frustration of the Turkish Armed Forces and the top commanders with the developments and indeed signaled that the country might be on the threshold of yet another escalation.

The military’s demand is clear. Başbuğ particularly underlined that since there was no date on the "photocopy plan," how could the newspaper that published it have claimed that it was prepared in April? The top commander did not ask how it happened that such a "plan" reported to be in the investigation dossiers of the prosecutors probing the alleged "Ergenekon organization" was serviced to that newspaper, but how the paper knew it was prepared in April. He did not say it so openly, but he indeed implied that the Gülen brotherhood organization and its elements in the police intelligence might be behind this "plot."

Anyhow, the advocate of the detained former military lawyer in whose office the alleged "plan" was found denied over the past two weeks repeatedly that his client ever had such a document in his office. If those statements are correct and since we have full confidence that the top commander was honest in his statement that investigations proved that the "piece of paper" was not written in the military headquarters, is it not obvious that this time the "bomb exploded in the hands of the culprits" - the police intelligence elements of the F-type organization?

With Başbuğ’s remarks a new stage has opened in the controversy.


The other night American Ambassador Jim Jeffrey hosted a dinner for some 20 guests. The list of the guests, however, was problematic because on it was the names of the Israeli and the Saudi ambassadorial couples. However, Saudi diplomats have been avoiding such occasions not only because there are no diplomatic ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia, but also to protest the continued occupation of Palestinian land and Israel’s oppressive policies toward Palestinians. Of course there was no such sensitivity on the part of the Israeli diplomats.

Thus, seeing the Israeli ambassadorial couple, Ambassador Dr. Mohammed Al Hussaini Al Sharif and his wife walk out of the dinner telling Ambassador Jeffrey that he was required to respect the Saudi sensitivities and inform them that the Israeli ambassador was among the invited also.
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Theocratic democracy (III)

26 Haziran 2009
While a reference in a national charter stating the religion of a people might not be a stringent violation of the secularism principle, though it does not conform well with it, the inclusion of a "No law can compromise the principles of Islam" article in the national charter of a country, would not make a country a "theocratic democracy," but would definitely convert it into something much different than a democracy. I believe secularism is the backbone of democracy in any Muslim society. I think there is no viable alternative to secularism in Turkey, if you take into consideration the composition of this society. Turkish society is unlike that in Iran, Iraq or any other Muslim nation.

Of course, there is a place in Turkish society for wider religious support and rights. I personally do not like the way the Islamists are now living, dressing, the way they are thinking, but in democracies people are not obliged to conform to my expectations. And in their private lives they can do whatever they like. I firmly believe that in addition to many other factors, how a state and its people approach issues of "religious freedoms" demonstrates the level of democratic understanding in a country. It is an intellectual duty to reject outright any discrimination based on religion, race, color or any other category, and over the years I have been trying to remain vigilant against such primitive attitudes. I believe religion is a private matter, one of personal choice for any individual to believe and worship Ğ or not Ğ as he/she chooses, in whatever fashion, following any religion that the individual finds most appropriate. It is none of the business of the state or an individual to advise anyone to choose any religion or to be an atheist or deist. Unfortunately, no infant in any part of the world enjoys the right to decide his/her religion. It's a universal practice to assume that the infant automatically acquires the religion of the father or the mother. Religion has to be an individual affair of all individuals.

Though sui generis, and needed to be improved, the state is secular, the system is secular, and this system guarantees freedom of religion. Without secularism it would be impossible for Turkey to be a democracy. Secularism is the key element for the successful coexistence of democracy and religion. Otherwise, we would not be able to sustain democracy. That's why secularism and democracy are interrelated in the Turkish example.

This may be less so in Europe because they have lived through the enlightenment age and lived through the separation of church and state Ğ so hundreds of years ago they completed the cycle. However, in Islam there weren't any reforms, there was no renaissance and, in essence, Islam remains a religion regulating every aspect of life. If you let it dominate the state, then how will you have a national will when you already have a will that is superior, and divine? So, this contradicts with the norm itself.

Secularism is the essence, the key, the magic wand, if you want; without it, you cannot have democracy. What is democracy? People ruling themselves by themselves is the basic definition. What is the fundamental element here? Sovereignty, the right to decide and to make errors: If you have a base in the Constitution and the book of the believers as the supreme book of the country, and if that book says that the only sovereign is God, and if that book defines everything in that society, then how are you going to have civil law? How are you going to have sovereignty? Or, how are you going to have democracy without people being sovereign? This is the key.

Branding secularism as an "official ideology of the state" and supporting the thesis that the will of the people should not be obscured with such impositions if the country wants to advance toward a "liberal democracy" is nothing less than a disguised effort aimed at getting rid of secularism and replacing it with a theocratic doctrine in a salami style.

I am not someone obsessed with secularism, and I am not an Islamist either; I am a social democrat, committed to democracy, to freedom and values in all aspects of life. To me, accepting a divine will over a popular will is the end of the game. We may have elections and an elected government. In Iran they have elections and an elected president and government, but can we describe the regime in Iran as a democracy? Elections are not sufficient enough on their own to demonstrate existence of democracy in any country. The worst governments can come to power through elections. It is the mentality that makes the difference. Democracy is a culture and it takes time to nourish it.
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Theocratic democracy (II)

25 Haziran 2009
There are sharp differences between Christianity and Islam regarding the place of religion in society and state administration. In today’s Christian culture, excluding some small subversive groups, there is no challenge by the Church on the civilian state administration, and thus, the concept of secularism has a meaning no longer confined to a "separation of church and state" description but indeed has become an obligation by the state to respect the rights and liberties of all religious groups without discrimination. Whereas Islam could not go through such an enlightening process. On the contrary, particularly while Christianity was opening up to secular thought through fresh interpretations and perceptions, Islam closed the interpretation door and turned itself into an even more rigid and dogmatic religion obsessed with form rather than meaning.

Now some Islamist pundits are asserting that if the people of a county establish a "consensus" and come up with a claim that they want the national charter of their country to be based on the principles of Islam, it would indeed be impossible to talk about democracy in that country as long as the "national consensus" was put into practice.

Well, first of all, while democracy could be described as a system of governance on the basis of "rule by the people, for the people" or in conformity with the "sovereignty rests unconditionally with the people" inscription on the wall of the Turkish Parliament, I must tell our Islamist friends that unfortunately democracy goes beyond a simplistic "election by the people" and "rule of the country by the elected representatives of the people" understanding. In the absence of norms and institutions which together with the national will produced through fair elections constitute the flesh and blood of democratic governance, a simplistic rule in conformity with majority expectations" understanding may unfortunately produce a crooked version of democracy, or majoritarianism, which is characterized with the "we have parliamentary majority, we shall decide on everything" obsession, exclusion of dialogue with the opposition and aggressive and repulsive behavior towards the people who dare to criticize the majority or the majority leader. Those wishing to see an example to such behavior may just examine the current Turkish example.

Democracy goes further than elections

Secondly, while "sovereignty rests unconditionally with the people" and democracy is "rule by the people, for the people", in the absence of "supremacy of law" and "equality of all in front of law principles" such a governance model, even if it is underlined in its name as was the case of the former "German Democratic Republic" cannot be described as a democratic governance at all. Nor, on the other hand, inclusion of a reference to the religion of the nation in the national charter can make a country a theocratic state, as long as governance in that country is achieved through man-made laws, and not with reference to divine laws or the text of a holy book that cannot be amended by the people or a parliament composed of representatives of a people in a "representative democracy." Going secular was not an overnight achievement of Western democracies. It took centuries to nourish a democracy culture. After all, more than going to the election booth once in every few years and renewing the "national will", democratic governance is a cultural phenomenon. Any nation can be educated to become democratic.

But, in order to become democratic, a nation must first develop an understanding of equality. If all people are equal and some are more equal, as was more or less what the socialist practice was until it collapsed in 1989, even if, put aside a modern understanding of secularism, atheism was imposed by the state and all laws in that country are "man-made" because of the absence of the principle of equality and supremacy of law it was impossible to qualify those countries as countries ruled by democratic governance. Therefore, it has to be clear for everyone that democracy is not just whether or not there are free and fair elections in the country; whether a state is at equal distance to all religions or not; whether there was gender equality or not but whether there exists norms and institutions of democracy in that society together with those listed.

Will continue with the third and last part on the issue tomorrow.
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Theocratic democracy (I)

24 Haziran 2009
Some Islamist pundits have started a rather strange propaganda by assuming that the entire world is composed of some naïve people who can be easily deceived with some glaring words or through some obscure and obsessive impositions devoid of reason, logic and reality. At the heart of the matter lies a search for an answer to the question: if there can be democracy based on theocratic principles or, to put it more boldly, a theocratic democracy. This is of course an attempt to dilute the "obsession" in some important sections of the Turkish society and the establishment that the sine qua non of democracy in a country with a predominantly Muslim population is the principle of secularism.

Does secularism mean a clear-cut separation of religion and state affairs in the French sense of "laicité," or do we have a secularist understanding that enables our state to "regulate" religious affairs through a special agency that enjoys almost absolute power over all mosques and imams and that can even dictate the topic of Friday sermons?

Sui generis secularism

We have to be clear: If the system in Turkey could be described as "secularist" it must be a sui generis form of secularism because it is neither like French laicism nor like American secularism, under which church and state are totally separate and where there is full religious freedom - to an extent envied by fundamentalists all over the world - and it is up to the discretion of the individual to let religion guide one's life, or not.

In Turkey, we have a Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) that, in a way, represents the "dominance of state over religion" or the "state Islam" which enjoys - at least in theory - almost a full monopoly as the legitimate form of the Muslim faith practiced in the country. Of course, the practice of "state Islam" regulated by the Religious Affairs Directorate has been a contentious subject because it fails to include schools of Islam other than the Sunni Hanefi sect. In particular, it does not include the country's Alawite community, which constitutes an estimated one-fifth of the overall population of over 70 million, and it totally neglects the non-Muslim religions. Still, the Religious Affairs Directorate, which is affiliated with the Prime Ministry via a state minister in the Cabinet, is the sole authority to regulate religious affairs in the country. By law, it coordinates the building of mosques as well as the training and appointment of imams, although imams are selected either from graduates of university theological faculties or are educated by the directorate through cooperation with the Education Ministry.

Though the Religious Affairs Directorate is a republican establishment, this peculiar situation in Turkey, as a philosophy and as a tradition, predates the establishment of the republic, and it is perhaps one of Turkey's important sui generis assets that helped it to become the first and only secular democracy among Muslim nations. Of course, a reform of the Religious Affairs Directorate that will make it "all inclusive" will further expand the crucial role it has played in blocking - ever since its establishment - a possible Islamist fundamentalist threat. The Turkish case must be taken as an example for reforming the Muslim world, particularly in light of the fact that in other Muslim states the government finances, certifies and supervises mosques but cannot stop underground radical Islamist movements.

Still, it is obvious that there is indeed no secularism application in Turkey in the sense that exists in the Christian world. Indeed, what exists in Turkey is a sui-generis secularism concept that more or less could best be described as, "rather than Islam impose itself on the state let the state control the religion." While this concept should indeed be replaced with a universal description of secularism inclusive of all religions and beliefs, an examination of democracy, religion and secularism in a Muslim culture would clearly demonstrate that none of these terms could be applied "copy and paste" into the established perceptions of the Christian culture.

The main fundamental difference between Islam and Christianity in this regard was the more than three centuries long, painful enlightenment process the Christian societies went through. As a result, Christianity managed to develop some sort of a secular understanding within itself. Islamic culture was not allowed to accomplish that transformation.

I will continue on this subject tomorrow also.
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Iran and Turkey

23 Haziran 2009
Fear mongers in our society often come up with the thesis that increasing conservatism and strengthening the place of religion in the governance of the country over the past seven years indicated that Turkey can turn into a second Iran one day. Indeed, during the shah period, Iran was as secular a country as Turkey. Though, it was not a democracy either during those times or after the Islamic Revolution, which replaced the shah regime with a theocratic dictatorship of the Shiite religious leaders with an elected government.

Turks mostly subscribe to the Hanefi school of Sunni Islam, while Iran is predominantly Shiite. That is, even though both countries have predominantly Muslim populations, religion wise they have very little in common except the holy book Koran and fundamental elements of Muslim culture. Perhaps due to the shaman past of the Turks or the intense centuries long cultural interaction with the West, particularly with France, and to a large extent, thanks to the pre-Turkish culture of Anatolia, even the Sunni Islam perception of Turks is far different and incredibly tolerant compared to Sunni practice elsewhere.

Though continued animosities between the Turks and the Iranians came to an end with the landmark Kasr-i Şirin peace treaty in 1639 (the Turkish-Iranian border has remained intact since then), ever since, state-to-state relations between the two remained "cordial." That is, the two countries have since then been enjoying good neighborly relations without necessarily trusting fully in the other. Yet, before and after the Kasr-i Şirin peace treaty, Persian culture and language played a very important role in the Ottoman literature and culture. That is, the cultural interaction continued even during times of hostilities.

There is a very strong living bond between Iran and Turkey as well Ğ the Azeri Iranians. Yet, the Iranian Azeri population describe their identity first with the Shiite school of Islam, then the Iranian state and ethnic identity comes after, unlike the behavioral pattern of minorities or ethnic groups in other countries, including Turkey. That is, they identify themselves as Shiite then as Iranian and then as Azeris. Still, with full respect to the principle of non-interference in internal affairs, the Azeri Iranians constitute a very strong backbone of the cultural and social dimension of relations between the two countries.

But, Iran is not Turkey and Turkey can never become a second Iran. Each has its own peculiarities and social dynamics, and despite centuries of cultural and linguistic interaction and influence over the other, each has its own distinguished and rich cultural heritage that they are proud of.

However, while neither Iran can become a second Turkey nor Turkey can become a second Iran, whatever happens in either of the countries has a repercussion or spillover effect on the other due to the strong national interaction between the two, despite the "cordial" state-to-state relations. Indeed, fear mongers were trying to make best use of the concerns in Turkey in the aftermath of the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979. Naturally, and probably because of the efforts of the 1980 coup administration, the increase in religious awareness in Turkey and the country becoming more and more conservative, might as well be a phenomenon which might be considered an indirect impact of what happened in Iran on the Turkish society.

Pahlavi interview

While reading yesterday in daily Milliyet an interview with Reza Pahlavi, the son of Iran’s last shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who died in exile, these were some of the things that I remembered. Pahlavi, who would have been Iran’s shah today if the Islamic revolution did not dethrone his father, said that Turks must be aware of the importance of secularism because without it the country cannot sustain its democracy. He was in a way admitting that the shah regime came to an end because it could not sufficiently enforce secularism and in the hopes of sustaining the regime allowed the advance of Shiite theocracy.

In hopes of "reform" the son Pahlavi is implying readiness to collaborate with the current Iranian opposition and join forces in pressing for democratic governance in Iran, warning Turks not to forget the importance of what they have before losing it.

Turkey cannot be a second Iran, but I am afraid the son Pahlavi is right in his warning. In the absence of secularism, while it would not be a second Iran, Turkey would not be a democracy either.

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