Wholeheartedly or not, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP by its Turkish acronym) of Turkey is playing a very dangerous game. Squeezed between two pro-war minorities, the militarist elite ? led by the Army and its faithful underdogs in corporate media and political circles ? and the big bourgeoisie ? the “White Turks” of Istanbul business circles ? the neo-Islamist leadership of AKP (chiefly its “natural” leader Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Abdullah Gul) is desperately trying to convince the rank-and-file that AKP has no more room to maneuver between supporting U.S. militarism and buttering up antiwar sentiments of Turkey’s citizens.
AKP’s MPs are basically told that they have to stop being self-respecting Muslims who believe in justice and democracy, that they have to ignore voices of protest coming from their grassroots constituencies which carried AKP to power, and that they have to be “realistic” about allowing the bombardment, starvation and massacre of another Muslim population. The successful passage of the February 6th resolution from the parliament, allowing the U.S. to modernize its military bases in Turkey and to use Mersin and Iskenderun harbors for the transportation of equipment, personnel and arms, was a definitive proof that the leadership has been successful in forcing the bitter pill of compromise down the throats of its MPs. As the second session on February 18th (during which the other resolution about allowing U.S. troops in the country will be voted) approaches, more and more antiwar groups are being mobilized throughout Turkey; as Koray Caliskan and Yuksel Taskin remind us in their beautifully written exposition of AKP’s dilemmas, recent polls show that an overwhelming 94% of Turkey’s citizens oppose a military campaign against Iraq.
Whatever pressure a warmongering minority (which also controls and/or owns important economic and political resources in the country) puts on the government, whatever orders hidden behind the rhetoric of “friendly diplomacy” are given by the U.S. army-state, Turkey’s antiwar activists argue that the “realist” ground does not hold. AKP leadership’s fatalistic stance blinds the party to the fact that this strange creature called “national interests” is actually the brainchild of the Army, groomed by the caring arms of the Turkish bourgeoisie. The assumption that “there is no alternative” to the designs of the Bush administration for the Middle East is also part of the ideology behind “national interests” so stringently tried to be defended from a pro-war position.
The interests being “realistically” defended by the ruling powers, as long as the dispossessed multitudes of the country constitute the bulk of the “nation”, cannot be “national” interests. Being an accomplice (if not a direct agent) in the destruction of Iraqi lives, despite the promises of the so-called “realists” shedding crocodile tears as they secretly vote for war, cannot ensure our citizens’ security, welfare and dignity.
On the contrary, aiding the U.S. army-state in its crusade will ensure insecurity by disrupting the social and political dynamics of the region of which Turkey is a part and by giving more leverage to the “security establishment” in its own domestic policing campaigns which undermine the civil rights of Turkey’s citizens. The war will ensure that Turkey’s workers will be hit hardest by the looming economic losses, as the military and business elite appropriate war profits and war aids. Finally, being forced by the ruling politicians and officers to become an accomplice to the massacring of other human beings will also definitely ensure a decline of our moral integrity and self-esteem as members of a democratic polity.
Therefore, exerting physical and psychological violence on another people, whether they are members of another nation or members of an ethnic group with which constitutional citizenship is shared, is in direct, absolute contradiction with our real interests.
Peace and demilitarization of politics are in the interest of Turkey’s antiwar majority. So is social justice. And so is a politics of redistribution. As opposed to “national interests”, the pursuit of these inseparable interests can successfully challenge the already-bankrupt legitimacy of AKP and the credibility of the pro-war camp.
The antiwar movement in Turkey can and should fight for the realization of the real interests of the country’s many disenfranchised citizens, who struggle to survive in the country’s regime of “permanent crisis”. The popular struggle for peace will not only open the way for the long-overdue democratization of the polity and for our empowerment as citizens, but also can help the people of Turkey to radically rethink their attitudes towards each other as members of different ethnicities and towards members of other nations.
Our message is clear: We shall not kill for the U.S. war machine, we shall not allow our citizens be killed for it, and we shall not passively watch as the government helps it kill. We have to keep pressuring the government until it submits to the real interests of the overwhelming majority of Turkey’s citizens. The growing antiwar movement all around the rest of the world is our inspiration.
Turkey belongs to a world without war.
Emrah Göker is a graduate student at Columbia University. He is also a member of the antiwar group Peace Initiative/Turkey based in New York City, which is organizing for the upcoming February 15th protest. His opinions are not necessarily those of Peace Initiative/Turkey. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
 Koray Caliskan and Yuksel Taskin, “Litmus Test: Turkey’s Neo-Islamists Weigh War and Peace“, Middle East Report Online, .
 For a critical analysis of Turkey’s permanent crisis regime, see Sungur Savran and Nesecan Balkan, eds. (2002) The Politics of Permanent Crisis: Class, Ideology and State in Turkey, Nova Science Publishers, New York.