Sir, Further to your report “Opposition party marches against Erdogan’s authoritarian rule” (July 10): it would be nice if we could find hope in the protests led by Turkey’s Republican People’s Party (CHP), but we have to be careful about how we interpret the protesters’ calls for “rights, law, justice”. Unfortunately, there is almost no support among any of Turkey’s political parties or supporters for a tolerant, pluralist understanding of their own society. Obviously, Turkey, like any other country, embodies a great deal of ethnic, religious, and political diversity, but there is an immense amount of intolerance for these differences among all of the political factions.
Turkey’s democracy, such as it is, has always operated along crude majoritarian lines. Whoever wins the majority in the parliament, or now the all-powerful presidency, may pretty much do whatever they please. Supporters of the ruling AKP know this full well because they were on the receiving end of CHP oppression for decades, as reflected by the quote from Hamza Araz at the end of your report: “They don’t support the rights of conservative people.” He is absolutely right. He, in turn, does not support any rights for them. Rights belong to me, not to you.
Turkish scholars of Turkish society point toward a rising tide of conservatism, majoritarianism and intolerance. One can certainly point to different “liberal” and “western” trends in policies, pronouncements and some public commentary, but all of these are regularly undermined in actual practice. Police return beaten wives to their husbands, in violation of the law but in accordance with cultural custom; judges openly state that their job is not to enforce the law, but rather to “serve the state”; as part of pro-EU educational reforms teachers are told they can select their own textbooks and should place students at the centre of the educational process, only to have the state provide only one textbook and for authoritarian master-disciple relationships to reassert themselves in the classroom.
The situation in Turkey is turning quite grave and growing worse. Western policymakers should be far more concerned than they are. The current upheaval will not be contained easily.
Dr Mark A Wolfgram
Ottawa, ON, Canada