Gül's presidency will fade Turkey's apartheid, not secularity

Abdullah Gül is a 'son of the nation,' as they call him, not a commissar of the state. And his presidency will be a major step forward toward abolishing the official apartheid against Turkey's practicing Muslims.

Gül's presidency will fade Turkey's apartheid, not secularity
By Mustafa Akyol, Turkish Daily News

Nowadays the big question in Turkey is whether Mr. Abdullah Gül, arguably the most successful foreign minister in the history of this country, will be the next president. Actually the same issue was a bone of contention in April, too, when Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan declared Mr. Gül as his candidate for the top post. Mr. Erdoğan's party, the AKP, had enough seats in Parliament to elect Mr. Gül, but the secular elders of Ankara got infuriated, simply because Mr. Gül is a practicing Muslim and his wife wears the headscarf. Hence they blocked the parliamentary process. Consequently Mr. Erdoğan called for early elections, and, alas, won them on July 22 with an astounding victory.

One can also put it this way: The AKP wanted to elect Mr. Gül as president. The powers that be said, "no, you can't!" And then 47 percent of the Turkish voters said, "yes, they can." In other words, "hey," they said to those sinister powers, "mind your own business."

Institutions of the regime:

Moreover, the remaining 53 percent of the voters can't be considered as in opposition to Mr. Gül. The voters of the Nationalist Movement Party (14 percent), the Democratic Party (5 percent), the independents (5 percent), the Saadet Party (2 percent) and other little political parties do not share the Islamophobic fixation that lies behind the anti-Gül hysteria. It is only the ultra-secularist CHP, which gained just 20 percent of the votes, that is obsessed with the presidency of Mr. Gül. It was actually Deniz Baykal, the party's leader, who initiated this artificial crisis many months ago by swearing, "We won't allow the headscarf at the top of the state!"

If Turkey was a fully democratic country, then that would be only the CHP's problem, but unfortunately that's not the case. The CHP represents not only its voters, but also the "institutions of the regime," as they prefer to call themselves. Although these institutions are all funded by taxpayers, they think they are not responsible to them. The institutions rather believe that they are wise while most of the citizens are not, and thus they have the right to rule the country by ignoring, even crushing, the democratically elected representatives of the people.

These authoritarian institutions define their beloved "regime" mostly by referring to the principle of secularism. But that is misleading, simply because Turkey is not a real secular democracy. In secular democracies there is a separation between religion and state, whereas in Turkey what you have is the domination of the former by the latter. Moreover, secular democracies treat their citizens equally regardless of their beliefs and practices. A secular democracy doesn't care whether you are a Muslim, a Christian or a mantra-chanting Hare Krishna. However in Turkey the state systematically discriminates against practicing conservative Muslims, who are not deemed appropriate to have a say, or even show up, in the public square.

Apartheid, Turkish style:

But how can the state spot a practicing conservative Muslim? It is hard to tell in men, because there is no distinct religious garment for them. Yet women are all obvious with their headscarves. They also help branding their husbands, because the watchdogs of the "regime" also carefully note men whose wife wear headscarves. In Turkey such couples are barred from many public services and posts. The lady isn't allowed to attend any public or private school or university. She can't get a job in any public office. She might not be even able to attend the graduation ceremony of her son or daughter, because some university rectors strictly order the campus police, "No 'tighthead' will be allowed in."

The husband, on the other hand, can't even think of a job in the military or high-level bureaucracy. Even if he becomes an MP, there will be grounds that he won't be able to step on. President Sezer, for example, sends invitations for his annual official parties only to the deputies whose wives are uncovered.

I suggest that we should stop pretending that all citizens are equal, and boldly declare the definition of our regime: Apartheid. The real apartheid was in South Africa, of course, in which the black majority was officially discriminated against by the oligarchic whites. In Turkey the suppression is much less severe, and is based on creed, not race, but the basic logic is the same: Some citizens are first class, others are second.

The funny thing is that the guardians of this apartheid continuously attack practicing Muslims for not being able to "internalize the regime" and accuse them of treason.

As a proud traitor, I think now is the time for this madness to end. Mr. Gül's presidency will be a major step forward toward ending our apartheid. He is not only the most worthy statesman in this country for that top post, but he is also a symbolic figure that Turkey's oppressed masses identify with. He is a "son of the nation," as they call him, not a commissar of the state. If he becomes our next president, we will be much closer to being a real democracy.

Last Mod: 12 Ağustos 2007, 09:51
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