From Blue to Red: An Evaluation of the Evolution of the Democracy of the Turkish Republic

first one

By Mina Erten

Art: Gradient of Democracy by Manya Tam

A downfall of humankind is that no matter the amount of forewarning, we are creatures that learn best through experience and identifying the problem and its consequences with the self. If this were not true, then politics in the 21st century would paint a drastically different picture than in the current time and age.

Plato [1] of Ancient Greece left the human race a palette of colors with which to paint political history: purple as the color of nobility for aristocracy, yellow as the color of unintentional weakness for timocracy, black and white as colors of contrast for oligarchy, and finally blue and red.

From a history of aristocracy, timocracy, oligarchy, and its siblings, a society finding democracy, depicted in a deep blue, as the most appropriate and just form of governance has developed. Why? In its essence, the democracy we employ is no more than a state of rule by a cumulative group of elected representatives. A form of governance prevalent in 123 of the 192 countries today, democracy has become regarded as somewhat the norm of the 21st century while countries who choose different forms of government are scrutinized. Nevertheless, all countries sharing this form of government are unique in their interpretation and application of it. Can we really claim that one country is as democratic as the other? And perhaps this is where the real problem emerges: a single form of government, 123 different versions of it. Should democracy be so open to interpretation?

What seems to be the case in recent years is that this governance system, so well trusted, has disappointed many due to the notions generated in regards to it and left many nations in an ongoing identity crisis in regards of a fashion of ruling which the 21st century person automatically thinks to be flawless. This cannot be more accurate than when considering the current case of the Turkish Republic.

Before World War II, Turkey, under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, was regarded as a state quickly developing into an ideal government. Ataturk, a war hero who had rid the then collapsing Ottoman Empire of invaders to salvage a nation bridging Asia with Europe, had also refused to become the next sultan by 1922. After the declaration of democracy in 1923, Turkey was not only quickly catching up to its European neighbors, but had become so modern that it gave women the right to vote in 1934, far sooner than many European countries. However, with the young death of Ataturk in 1938, his revolutions were left uncompleted and the Turkish Republic began a slow deterioration. Turkey today still idealizes him as the founding father of the Turkish democracy and savior of a nation that without him would have been inexistent. This leads to a stark contrast between the idealization of him and the politics of Turkey today.

The peak of this deterioration came rather recently in 2013, right before the 12th President of the Turkish Republic, Recep Tayyip Erdogan took power in 2014. The Erdogan regime attempted to tear down one of the most infamous parks, Gezi Parki, in the cultural center of Istanbul. As a response to this, an environmental protest consisting of approximately 7.5 million people challenged the power of their corrupt government. The park became absorbed in a cloud of tear gas with police shooting and injuring 7,478 and murdering 7 innocent people, with an additional 7 police officers committing suicide for the violence they had to perform on their fellow citizens and the impacts of the event. [2] [3] Ever since Gezi, every national holiday or event in the Turkish Republic has been painted from blue to red: Plato’s final color, representing tyranny.

Where in democracy can tyranny be born? Erdogan, who for years was compared to Adolf Hitler in his dictatorial fashion, represented a population who was educated by religion mistaken as a form of politics. The country quickly developed into a land where during elections, the electricity is cut off and ballots are exchanged. This lack of education, which many would argue is the critical necessity for a nation to function democratically, is where democracy failed Turkey. [4] Turkey still maintains that it is a democracy. If you ask your average Turkish Ali (one of the most popular Turkish names) a political question, he will take the name of Allah, along with other religious jargon, at least once every two words in his answer. This new, arguably brainwashed, mentality within Turkey that Erdogan presents in his dark comedy of an administration paints an image of the country which educated Turks cannot imagine.

Thus, an ill-educated mass has been cajoled into understanding religion as a means of political rule. In 2017, Turkey had the highest rate of writer imprisonment in the world for engaging in free speech. [5] It is a country where women are assaulted on public transportation for wearing shorts in summer. And it is a place where kissing in public warrants a fine of thirty dollars (as of only this past Autumn). This is how simple it is to be painted from blue to red. And we have been forewarned.

This raises questions concerning democracy as a whole: how reliable is the regime and where do countries lie on its flexible spectrum? I would argue that though nothing could lessen the love a person feels for its country, bearing in mind such events, developing an understanding of political philosophy and practice, and educating oneself should consistently be the responsibility of every citizen. Had this responsibility been taken seriously, perhaps Turkey would not face the red colors of its imminent tyranny, in a world in which I, along with many other Turks, hope our nation will be repainted blue.

1 Plato, Harold North Fowler, W. R. M. Lamb, Robert Gregg Bury, and Paul Shorey. 1975. Plato. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

2 HAKAN, Ahmet. “Kimse anlatamıyor bari ben anlatayım.” Son Dakika Haberler. June 4, 2013. Accessed December 05, 2017.

3 “Gezi Parkı ve #direngeziparki meselesi.” M. Serdar Kuzuloğlu. May 31, 2013. Accessed December 05, 2017.

4 Dewey, John. 1997. Democracy and education: an introduction to the philosophy of education.

5 “‘Türkiye dünyanın en büyük gazeteci hapishanesi‘ – BBC Turkce – Haberler.” BBC News. Accessed December 05, 2017.

 

Endnotes

Dewey, John. 1997. Democracy and education: an introduction to the philosophy of education.

“Gezi Parkı ve #direngeziparki meselesi.” M. Serdar Kuzuloğlu. May 31, 2013. Accessed December 05, 2017. https://www.mserdark.com/gezi-parki-ve-direngeziparki-meselesi/.

HAKAN, Ahmet. “Kimse anlatamıyor bari ben anlatayım.” Son Dakika Haberler. June 4, 2013. Accessed December 05, 2017. http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/kimse-anlatamiyor-bari-ben-anlatayim-23429413.

Plato, Harold North Fowler, W. R. M. Lamb, Robert Gregg Bury, and Paul Shorey. 1975. Plato. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

“‘Türkiye dünyanın en büyük gazeteci hapishanesi’ – BBC Turkce – Haberler.” BBC News. Accessed December 05, 2017. http://www.bbc.com/turkce/haberler/2012/12/121219_rsf_statement.

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