BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
Turkey simmering. Will it end up tasting good, or just turn out to be an insipid hash we’ll be forced to chew on and digest for another few generations?
No one can possibly make that call. But one thing is certain, Turkey will not continue unhindered on its present trajectory of increased economic strength which emboldens its foreign adventurism, the worst case example of which is Syria. But it’s even worse there than you might think, at least according to a July 5th posting on Sibel Edmonds’ “Boiling Frogs” website. Uyghurs from China are being trained in Turkey and sent to fight in Syria. Then, they take their experience back home to use against the Chinese government. Two groups are involved in this process in some way, the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM)— a terrorist group that aims to create an Islamist state in Xinjiang —working alongside the East Turkistan Education and Solidarity Association (ETESA)— an Istanbul-based exile group. (So much for the “we’re not pan-Turanists” plaints).
Entering this type of internationally high-risk fraught arena is something that makes sense from a racist, pan-Turanist perspective which the Young Turk cum secularist/Ataturkist sector of Turkish society would naturally engage in… but wait, the current government of Turkey is Islamist/Ottomanist… but wait, that also represents an expansionist mindset. So one is tempted to believe there is no difference between the two sides of Turkish society.
Yet, at the same time, there are observable differences. The Islamist/Ottomanists have presided over a decade during which rapprochement with Kurds has commenced, Armenian issues are somewhat more easily discussed within Turkey (while externally, Genocide denialist and anti-Republic of Armenia policies are vehemently pursued), progress on the reform of Turkey’s constitution and laws has been made, and simultaneously the religious impetus and its attendant societal constraints have slowly manifested themselves. The secularists/Ataturkists represent a period of military coups, rabid internal and external anti-Armenianism, a bloody war against the country’s Kurdish population, and simultaneously the more modernist— at least on a social issues level— mindset in the country. And, for good measure, mix in the human-rights circles (who seem to stand apart from both of the other two and are small in number).
I’ve just described a country with a seriously divided and subdivided polity. And, the two major sectors are going at it. The Ataturkists are now in the position of protesting against the Ottomanists who are in power. Interestingly, there has been a spillover of this clash into the Turkish communities outside the country. In the U.S. there have been three demonstrations in just the last two weeks by the secular side against the Islamist side. The latter is manifested in the activities of the Gulen movement. The demos were held in Oakland at a Gulenist-operated charter school where some 20-25 people participated, at Gulen’s massive compound in the Poconos, and in New York.
Armenians are naturally interested in this since the outcome will impact us no matter what it is. Some are tempted to “join” one side or the other for some logical sounding reasons. But this Turk vs. Turk (T v. T) battle is not our fight, at the very least, not yet. It is part of the maturation process of Turkish society. Armenian involvement might well damage that fledgling process which seems to hold out the hope of the right kind of progress in Armeno-Turkish relations.
Interestingly, this T v. T clash even extends to Azerbaijan for whom the Gulenists also like to engage in propaganda, but they are not very appreciated by Azeri authorities who are pretty staunchly secularist. Perhaps the fact that most Azerbaijanis are Shia and the Gulenists are Sunni plays a role in this. Which is part of the reason why it will be interesting to learn about how an event at the Levantine Cultural Center in Los Angeles titled “Azerbaijan: an Evening of Arts, Culture & Citizen Diplomacy” will turn out. The Levant doesn’t include Azerbaijan, to my understanding, but it sure includes a good chunk of the Mediterranean coast that logically falls within the scope of any Ottomanist’s pipe dream. The event is happening as these lines are written and will be attended by Azerbaijan’s Consul General in Los Angeles, which puts the lie to the innocuous sounding title.
Let’s keep watching these activities and more deeply acquaint ourselves with the elements of societies whose fabric we were once a part of but have lost touch with because of murderous policies.