Interview with Ece Temelkuran: „Our society is going to be mad.“
The author Ece Temelkuran about the brutalization of the every-day life, collective inferiority feelings and her hope for a change in Turkey in the interview with the German daily newspaper DIE WELT.
The 42-years old lawyer, journalist and author Ece Temelkuran draws in her new book „Euphorie und Wehmut“ impressively the picture of the contractionary Turkey and its every-day life, which is characterized by constant astonishing yet simultaneously shaking the head. Turkey is building new bridges to Europe while breaking already existing ones.
The Turkish general elections are accompanied by bombings in Diyarbakir, Suruc and the recent horrible incident in Ankara at a peace rallying. What is happening with Turkey?
Turkey is heading to the elections in a stronger becoming atmosphere of terror. Additionally, the investigations in those cases are categorized as “secretly” and a ban of news coverage in the media is conducted by the AKP-government. More than half of the Turkish population is convinced, that the AKP is while it is heading to the elections, is supporting this state of terror. They are pointing to the ground for that the statement of Erdogan saying “Elect 400 representatives and the problem will be solved peacefully”. Another reason for the terror lies in the ending of the peace process in the Kurdish question prior to the elections by the government. We are experiencing a period, in which every single citizen and the society as whole is crippled by pain and anxiety.
Has Merkel´s visit to Turkey brought luck for the upcoming re-elections in Turkey?
Probably the only „uncomfortable“ thing for Merkel was not only the throne in Flamboyant Style on which she had to take seat! But I have to say, that her visit made Erdogans throne more comfortable. The news coverage in pro-government media was so weird, such as “Merkel bowed with cramped hands”. Merkel´s visit brought, at least from the government´s perspective an easing.
Arrested and sentenced journalists, authoritarian voices of the government towards its citizens, partly unclarified terror attacks on the civil society, unsuccessful coalition talks, the end of the Turkish-Kurdish peace process and now re-elections. Is Turkey able to come back to peaceful and democratic normality? And if so, what has to be happen?
I have a very brief answer to this question: We don’t have any other option than having faith in that this possible. But my longer answer is: This will take a long time. We are faced with the problem that it seems that Erdogan is the only responsible person for this situation, which is partly true. His very personal policy and discourse has immensely contributed in this chaos that we are going through now. Especially in his second term as the PM, he established his discourse on the “us” and “them. It was another example of “You are either with us or against us”. On the other hand such an discourse was approved by millions of people, the voters of the AKP. It will take time, until these hostilities will turn into a peaceful society. But it is true, that this solution will not be achieved by the AKP as the single governmental power. We need a coalition government, in order to motivate our society towards a more democratic, diverse and equal country. This need for coalition became apparent by the the last election results. The Gezi Park Protests have also shown, that more than the half of the population are being ignored by the government.
How do these hostilities between different ethnic, religious and cultural groups in Turkey clash in the Turkish every-day life?
The everyday life has become a scene of unprecedented, shocking and unpredictable scene of violence. Besides the easy-to-identify cases of ethnic, religious and political conflicts, maybe for the first time in Turkish history “violence for no reason” is becoming a social issue. One of the common subjects of everyday chit-chats is that the entire society is going mad. It mostly talked about in an ironic tone although it may unfortunately be a fact.
You are describing Turkey in a “schizophrenic permanent state which is swinging between inferiority complex and exaggerated self-confidence.” Are not Turks patriots, even a bit too nationalistic for the German taste?
Turkey is suffering since its founding from an identity issues. The problem concerns how we see us as well as how the world sees us. But towards the West we have been always feeling inferior, and in order to supress this inferiority, Turkey has an identity of an exaggerated self-confidence. We see that the AKP is the successful organized form of this anger resulted from this inferiority complex and with this feeling they have turned the face of Turkey towards the East, “the former Ottoman Empire”. That we now are struggling in the bloody and dusty political hole of the Near East, is the result of this change of course.
Who or what is the political hope of the Gezi Generation for Turkey´s future?
The main intention during the Gezi protests as to show and see for ourselves that the co-habitation and the societal peace must be the main goal for the future. Therefore anyone, any political leader who is eager to emphasize this merit can be an option for those who joined the Gezi protests.
In your book you also blame the West to have ignored the doubts and worries of Turkish intellectuals who opposed to the AKP when they came to power from 2002 on. Why?
Since the AKP took governmental power it has been said by Western intellectual circles and USA main stream politics that the AKP “is the perfect marriage between Islam and Democracy”. The general attitude in the West was that this much of democracy would be enough for Turkey. They accused the secular powers in Turkey to be an authoritarian and elitist clique as the government. That did not only happen in high political circles, but also in intellectual circles in the West. That the concerns of the regime critics were justified, we need to experience the Gezi Park Protests. From then on western intellectuals and politicians started after Gezi to listen to the oppositional voices of Turkey.
Is the AKP really more authoritarian than the former governments of Turkey or are we now facing with the results of the „Geburtsfehler“ of modern Turkey in 1923 in terms of the authoritarian, leader oriented political system and instructional modernization project to Westernize Turkey?
Of course are the problems today linked to structural problems existing since the founding of Turkey. But I am convinced, that the real source of the authoritarian and reactionary governance of the AKP is the 1980 Coup d´etat. Although the coup d´etat seemed from the outside conducted by secular powers, the coup d´etat brought in Turkey a reactionary and authoritarian regime. Those, who conducted the coup, have replaced a whole generation of progressive people by guardians of ab absolutistic-religious and reactionary culture of submission.
Is Turkey driving away from Europe because it has not been given any real perspective to join the EU?
This is also one reason, for sure. But the AKP-government has turned the face of Turkey towards the Arab world. It might be a good project, that we have good relations to our neighbours in the Near East, but Erdogan had formulated an ambitious goal to become the leader in the Middle East. That the West has considered Turkey as a model state, had also an impact on that. Erdogan believed that a power which is cyclical decreasing is going to become his power and since this day we are captured in an endless desert game of the Middle East together with our neighbours.
How can the Turkish civil society survive and will it survive in an authoritarian state?
Through struggle which they are having now. Despite the very serious obstacles people are still trying to speak up and be heard.
How do you explain to German readers Turkish society and politics?
Euphorie und Wehmut, is a literary non-fiction. So it tells the story of a country rather than giving the figures and statistics. But by the end the of the book, I hope, the reader will be informed and opinionated about why Turkey is such a mess. Turkey is a problematic yet an amazing country. I wrote the book for foreigners who are willing to be aware of the problems as well as the amazement.
You were quitted few years ago because of your critical columns on the AKP-government by “HABERTÜRK“. How free can you write in a country and say your opinion today which has been offered to speed up the negotiations for EU-membership?
The pro-government media are used, in order to show us as a target we are threatened. This is the reason why I do not feel safe anymore. When we published Euphorie and Wehmut, they started again a campaign which showed me as a target.
How is the life for a woman in Turkey today?
Complicated! Harsh! Maddening!
And the future of Turkey in three words?
Shady, complicated but resilient.
Photo: Mehmet Turgut