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Regime Change in Contemporary TurkeyPolitics, Rights, Mimesis$

Necati Polat

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781474416962

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474416962.001.0001

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(p.1) Introduction
Regime Change in Contemporary Turkey

Necati Polat

Edinburgh University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter rehearses an answer to the following question: how did the pursuit of ‘advanced democracy’, as initially promised, develop into a new form of authoritarianism in Turkey, more than replicating the old one, shortly after the former regime was no more? The chapter describes a ‘loop’ throughout the history of political modernisation locally, notwithstanding some dramatic splits and reshuffles, ultimately submitting to a more profound level of recurrence and cloning of ‘desire’ in a common pool of amazingly resilient local political culture. In putting forward this contention, the discussion relies on Girard’s work on the machinations of basic human desire. Accordingly, desire is notably mimetic, modelled on the other. The model is none other than the ‘rival’, held subliminally in esteem, while being detested at the same time. The chapter argues that the new, populist authoritarianism in Turkey could be understood as a play of desire in this mould.

Keywords:   authoritarianism, democracy, Girard, mimesis, political culture, political modernisation, populism, regime change, Turkey, Turkish political history

One frequently articulated observation by the critics claimed with the regime change that the new and as yet amorphous order, in place roughly from 2011, was shifting in its early phase conspicuously towards reproducing the old one. The critics included some of the former supporters of the government, who had grown increasingly disenchanted and bitter, particularly the small group of liberal intellectuals that had earlier been skilfully co-opted by the ruling Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP) into the broad informal coalition against the status quo. The ‘authoritarianism’ characteristic of the republican rule for close to a century had merely changed hands, and returned–possibly with a vengeance. This ‘new’ authoritarianism, palpable from mid-2013, and playing havoc with some of the most basic rights and the rule of law on a scale arguably hitherto unobserved, with the possible exception of brief periods in the past directly controlled by the military, would soon push the domestic scene into a thick and escalating political mayhem. The phenomenal rise of the AKP, which had called itself ‘conservative democrat’ for about a decade from its inception, had prompted some of the affiliated literati euphorically to re-embrace the long-forgotten tag ‘Islamist’ in an impassioned debate in the pro-government media already in the summer of 2012. This shift in the discourse in circles known to be intimate with the actual power holders, and ubiquitous in no time through rather uninhibited speculations and suggestions of some of the local Islamist (p.2) ideologues, would do little towards soothing the profound insecurity felt all along by the secular urbanites with the AKP gaining mandate from late 2002 – anxieties that were not always well grounded, thinly disguising a hankering for the erstwhile ‘anti-majoritarian’ order that had largely disenfranchised the pious and practising Muslims, among other dissident political groups. Having received the support of close to half of the overall electorate by 2011 in a steady increase, the AKP was unequivocally and hugely successful. In the subsequent period this political party would ostensibly choose strategies to hold on to that base at the cost of further alienating the other half. Freshly out of a brief yet triumphant drive against the long-standing bureaucratic sway over politics, the government would proceed to interpret the majority behind it as a blank cheque for a score of new and somewhat intimidating policy initiatives, chiefly in education, designs that had been kept mostly in the dark until the regime change was complete. This resurgent ‘Islamism’ was arguably more a consequence of an increasingly distinct populist authoritarianism though, than a cause of it.

The adverse effects of the unsettling denouement would be greatly averted with the help of two main factors. One was an inept mainstream political opposition still partly rooted in the old order, and the other a relative vibrancy in the economy based on massive redevelopment of state-owned lands and on privatisation, unhindered, unlike similar efforts under previous administrations since the 1980s, by a shaky political power and a defiant judiciary. The second factor seemed to be particularly important. The verve in the economy would allow lavish public revenues and, more consequential still, soak up the domestic capital and idle labour considerably. Attributed to an ostensibly deft administration, the largely make-belief wealth primarily through intense use of the construction sector would in turn contribute to the domestic political sturdiness for good measure, which would be critical during and after the street protests of 2013, particularly in response to the massive corruption allegations that would follow at the end of the year. In evident desperation, despite the apparent solidity in the economy and a lack of alternatives in politics, the AKP leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (prime minister for over a decade from March 2003, and president from August 2014) would prove proficient in identifying a set of domestic and international scapegoats, rallying behind him the core supporters accordingly in warding (p.3) off the charges of dishonest financial dealings, nepotism, mismanagement and the threatening political volatility at home and in the larger region. The heavy-handed government sally to the street unrest, suddenly and extensively highlighted in world media, and the sweeping yet clearly tenuous claims of alleged conspiracy simultaneously articulated by Erdoğan to suppress the dissidence, would quickly alter the hard-earned reformist image of the administration in international public opinion. Most observers would read into Erdoğan’s nascent and increasingly unscrupulous rhetoric a frantic effort to abort democratic accountability at any cost, especially after the substantive claims of corruption.

There would be little doubt in the period from early 2014 onwards about the specific cast in the use of power. What had started out as a bid for improved democracy had turned into plain authoritarianism. In resorting to this term, I rely implicitly on a wide scholarly consensus on the description of basic authoritarianism, with giveaways in the unfolding ruling style in the early phase after the regime change, which I intend to demonstrate in Part II of this book; namely (1) a curbed accountability for the administration through an effective obstruction of the elementary function of the separation of the state powers, (2) a mass management style premised on fighting vaguely identified enemies, (3) serious restrictions on the legitimate political activities of democratic rivals and of the public, and (4) an indefinite executive power put to use somewhat in defiance of the formal constitutional order.1 With roots in the local Islamist politics, the AKP had introduced itself as a novel instrument for pressing change in the ample space provided in the wake of the economic meltdown of 2001, ascending to power in November 2002. The regime change that would end the long-established distinction of a ‘state’ ruled by the bureaucracy headed by a president and an elected ‘government’ that could only rule within the strict red lines of the bureaucracy would take place between 2007 and 2011, initiated by the election of a politician from the ranks of the ruling AKP for the post of president. The change would be finalised through a heated referendum for a set of constitutional amendments in September 2010, when, (1) the masses content with the economy and growing global integration under the AKP, (2) the pious and practising Muslims, and (3) some liberal public opinion leaders intent using the AKP as a transformative force, would enable an all-time high 58 per cent support for (p.4) the government for an overhaul of the system of high courts, the sole enduring fortification of the once formidable bureaucracy. Legislative enactments in early 2011 would enable the constitutional amendments at issue to take effect, and in June of the same year the AKP would renew its mandate for the third time by receiving close to 50 per cent of the votes.

What Exactly Happened?

How do we explain the subsequent authoritarianism, once the regime change was complete? How did a reformist administration, which achieved a wide democracy-aspiring coalition beyond the core supporters it had taken over from the former Islamist politics of its leaders, and which was thus recipient of worldwide adulations for a decade for integrating the society behind wholesome democratic ideals, come to mutate, seemingly almost overnight, into a replica, if not worse, of the rule that it had battled and defeated shortly before? Several interpretations of this bewildering state of affairs, each with obvious merits, seem to be possible. First of all, it may be argued, as the few liberals who went on trusting the administration did in the early phase after the old regime, that it was yet too early for a full depiction of the whole case. We might have to be patient and give time to the colossal change that had taken place only recently to settle before rushing into judgements as to the possible directions of the ‘new’ regime. On that account, the radical transformation in the use of domestic power, accomplished through a set of decisive gestures between 2007 and 2011, was definitely a huge step forward, yet still under the assault of those loyal to the old order. If nothing else, the recasting of power had bridged the long-prevalent gap between the masses with somewhat limited enfranchisement in the administration and the elites driven by an oppressive identity politics introduced with the onset of political modernisation, not only in the republican era, but also arguably since the mid-nineteenth century. Accordingly, the continuing resistance to the change, especially that by the still prodigiously potent elites, forced the agents of change, namely the government, to resort to some ‘exceptional’ tools that were often identified with the old order. Further, this view seemed to assume, the increasing visibility of religious symbols under the new rule, viewed by the critics as signs of an embryonic Islamist regime, was not only to be expected, as the former state–government gap holding masses at bay had been removed, (p.5) but was also perhaps conducive to a smoother and healthier transition to democracy. The key part played by the Puritan heritage in the development of democracy in the United States, as evident in abundant religious imagery, including a belief in the sovereignty of God rather than of the nation as articulated in the historical discourse, had been a rather similar case perhaps, and could give further credibility to this argument. As such, the Puritan culture had conceivably facilitated the transition to an improved democracy by enabling the masses to somehow ‘relate’ to politics of the elect. Later, the Puritan religious discourse and the symbols, some still in use as little more than harmless lore, had not necessarily translated into everyday workings of politics, hindering free democratic choices of vast and heterogeneous masses.

This was the first of a set of plausible takes on the new authoritarianism in the country. Another possible explanation, though not as compelling as the first perhaps, accounted for and excused the oppressive politics in the immediate aftermath of the regime change through a concern on the part of the administration for the pace and nature of decision-making towards rapid economic growth, with possible democratic hurdles in the way conveniently swept aside. Accordingly, the economic success stories in Asia from the 1960s formed sound evidence of economic thriving via business-like policies adopted under the respective authoritarian rules, chasing away conceivable disarray likely to be caused by a fully democratic governance that could otherwise hamper the state apparatus in being sufficiently agile in adopting measures as demanded. Hence, for instance, the brazen disregard of the public tender principles under the AKP rule, with competition practically eliminated with the handing out of public works to contractors close to the ruling circles.

Finally, a reading, which, unlike the first two, was much less patient with the emergent ruling style, construed the episode as a typically populist policy switch. The discourse was hardly peculiar to the locality, observed rather in various settings globally that were otherwise disconnected; as with Silvio Berlusconi in Italy, Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, Viktor Orbán in Hungary, Narendra Modi in India, and Ross Perot and Donald Trump in respective presidential campaigns in the United States, including perhaps the known policy patterns of some of the European far-right political parties. Populism as such was a somewhat well-recognised variety, thoroughly studied in its (p.6) manifestations in disparate milieus, without necessarily a common thread of ‘substance’ or ideology intrinsically connecting to each other a multitude of instances of authoritarian rule or discourse deemed to be populist. The suggestive symptoms of this rule included a sharp dichotomy of the people and the elites at the discursive level, with the elite often described as a self-serving class at best and otherwise as foreign cronies or accidental lackeys, if not plain traitors and spies. This rhetoric inevitably brought in a radical polarisation in society. Not infrequently, the profound resentment towards the opposition was coupled with an undermining of the separation of powers in the state apparatus, amassing power in the hands of the administration in its self-professed fight against treason and treachery. Last, but by no means least, populism virtually fed on a mass clientelism in the form of financial and material handouts to voters, the source of which was often formed by none other than widespread corruption. The emerging regime in Turkey from 2011 issued most, even perhaps all, of these signs. The frequent references in the ruling party discourse to the early republican administration as the loathed, local Ancien Régime, and to the völkisch ‘aboriginality’ assumed to have consistently been suppressed by that regime, at once arguably connected the new politics to fairly well known ‘nativist’ currents in Europe historically.

In what follows, I rehearse by way of an introduction to this book an additional factor that is not necessarily outside these accounts but is complementary in some sense. Unlike the foregoing, I refuse to treat the authoritarianism with the demise of the old regime as an overt policy choice, fully or in its own right, but include an irreducible element that is to some extent in excess of that choice. In so doing I draw on the anthropological insights developed by René Girard in a solitary yet persistent line of work since the early 1970s. The argument, detailed in the sections below, is centred on the seemingly ‘bizarre’ machinations of basic human desire. Briefly put, desire, such as that which drove the ruling AKP up to 2011 to put an end to the status quo, is notably ‘mimetic’, imitative, modelled on the other: that is, desire is to do more with simulation and reproduction of another desire, namely the desire of the other, which the desiring subject looks up to, than a self-contained and autonomous exigency like some biological need. For the fulfilment of desire as such in a specific case, the subject seeks typically to ‘copy’ the desire of the other, the model. In point of fact, this model is (p.7) none other than the ‘rival’, held subliminally in esteem, while being detested at the same time, by the desiring subject. Negating it for power, the desiring subject at once goes as far as perversely appropriating the very identity of the rival. The new authoritarianism in Turkey, which seemed to emerge closely to reiterate the old one, I argue, could be understood as a play of desire in this mould. The compulsive move by the government towards mimicking the adversary, the old guard, came from 2011 to effectively terminate the disparity between those who were in truth two authentic rivals. Yet, this was a perilously disruptive course on the whole, for the differentiation at issue, separating and marking apart the desiring subject from the model, was ontologically crucial for the basic stability in the community. The age-old routine, Girard explains, when some such ‘disordering’ is the case, is to seek purification through scapegoating, a mechanism he details at great length. Scapegoating tacitly restores the disrupted stability and meaning in the community simply by picking on random victims. Concomitant with the regime change, the new rule would correspondingly ‘lynch’ a number of victims to reconstruct a measure of that same stability. Normally, this arbitrary violence should have produced a new sacred, a new order, banishing, if temporarily, the mimetic ‘violence’ that was menacing to the community, as is the pattern historically. Yet, as Girard insists, unlike archaic societies, this mechanism of order through violence has long been demystified in modern societies. To be sure, the communal disciplining nowadays does follow the same course regardless, seeking order through arbitrary violence, even revenge. Instead of order, however, violence tends now to beget simply more violence, for modern societies have been dispossessed of that happy credulity that was a key component historically.

Not surprisingly, therefore, the violence that was attendant with the emerging political order in Turkey would go on simply to contribute new cycles of violence. The administration arguably lynched a mass of dissidents in a set of show trials by using, as rumoured, the Gülenists (see Chapter 5), the ambiguous Islamic cult known to be well connected in the law enforcement system and in the judiciary. Yet, this ‘victimage’ would ultimately serve only to intensify the violence rather than halt it. At war with the government, and purged from the judiciary and the police in no time, the Gülenists would soon come to have a taste of their own medicine. The damning corruption (p.8) revelations made ostensibly by the cult from December 2013, betraying the highly questionable manner in which Erdoğan allegedly financed politics over an extended period of time, indicated that a new round of lynching might soon make Erdoğan himself ‘the fall guy’, the archetypal victim of the spiralling violence. That which made the victims innocent or random in any of these cases appeared to be the mere fact that the victims were being targeted not necessarily for the offensive or criminal deeds that might be attributable to them, but as part of an instance of primordial violence, which was haphazard, and which primarily sought, before justice, a reconfiguration in the order; that is, a new sacred. Some of those put on trial from mid-2007 were hardly innocent of various underhand dealings against the political rule in its early phase. The corruption charges levelled at the government by none other than prosecutors did on the whole look well documented and convincing. Yet, revealing those secretly amassed irregularities in a war of attrition, under way for some time between the government and the Gülenists, looked barely innocent. The ostensibly Gülenist members of the judiciary and the police were indeed being opportunistic beyond merely performing their duties, staging a ‘coup’ in some sense, as claimed by the government. No party seemed to be blameless. Still, the rulers, as those singled out before, could at once be considered as ‘innocent’ for the random and indiscriminate nature of the response they received respectively from those who held or shared in the power. It was victimage and lynching in each and every case towards reconstituting the sacred.

Moreover, this may be part of a trope, as I argue below, linking simply all of the attempts at a new sacred in the history of political modernisation in Turkey, assumed to have been in motion from the early nineteenth century: the new constitutional order of 1876, the bureaucratic order of 1909, the initiation of the republican era in 1923, the liberal ascendancy to power in 1950, and finally, the most durable of all, the bureaucratic trusteeship system established through the military coup of 1960. In all of these cases of regime change, prior to the most recent one led by the AKP, which is the subject matter of this book, it may be possible, I claim, to identify the main gestures of desire, proceeding simply to replicate the rival and lead in no time to violence, scapegoating and more violence.

(p.9) Identity, Desire, Violence

The concept of desire denotes, crudely put, some form of strong emotional attraction to that which is its object. That desire as such is ‘covetous’ in a significant sense is an idea usually attributed to the seminal work of Jacques Lacan. Although Girard claims that Lacan, among the rest, ‘failed to discover’ the mimetic quality of desire,2 this hardly rings true. Pivotal to his overall work, Lacan appears to borrow a mimetic notion of desire, long pre-dating that of Girard, from Alexandre Kojève, whose seminal lectures on Hegel in the 1930s Lacan is known to have attended. In interpreting Hegel on self-consciousness as the defining trait of human person, Kojève is seen to invoke desire as uniquely human in contradistinction to ‘need’ that is both human and animalistic. Desire as an exclusively human attribute, he adds, is ‘the Desire of the other’, which, besides a craving to be ‘recognised’, a yearning for prestige, is a harbouring of wishes towards things and states of affairs that are entirely ‘mediated’ by the other; ‘it is human to desire what others desire, because they desire it.’3 The well-known Lacanian edict would later communicate none other than this basic assumption on desire: ‘Man’s desire is the desire of the Other.’4 As with Kojève, the thought supplies Lacan with a two-fold (and interwoven) purpose for desire: it is always already towards being desired or accepted by others and, as a corollary to this, it is at once about other desires. ‘The object of man’s desire, and we are not the first to say this,’ Lacan notes in a piece penned in 1951, with Kojève in mind obviously, ‘is essentially an object desired by someone else.’5 Further, in this specific sense intimated by both Kojève and Lacan, the object of desire does not even ‘exist’, as far as the desiring subject is concerned. The object ‘itself’ that is outwardly welded to pure desire is a mere extension of the ultimately arbitrary interest of the other in the object, which is the real magnet for the desiring subject. In other words, desire is hardly pure at all; it is motivated not by some need, immediately connecting it to a thing or a situation, as in the case of animals, but by an ontological drive that renders the object desirable merely for being desirable or desired by others. As is well known, this impulse behind desire mediated through the other is to do for Lacan with the essential ‘void’ that defines human subjectivity. This void is nothingness, empty space, a non-being; and yet it is at once the source of constant and (p.10) unbounded burning to ‘be’ or to ‘belong’ by acquiring an identity that is safe and comforting for being firmly aligned with the other, easing the dread of the inescapable vacuity within.

That it is more the desire of someone else (you desire what the other desires) than an aching linked intrinsically to the object as such, means that, over and above a desiring subject and a desired object; the mechanistics of desire seeking identity always already involve an intermediary, a ‘model’, as Girard puts it. The model not only functions as a template for the subject but also has the clearly ‘dominant role’ in the process, as the subject only hankers after the object knowing that it is dear to some model that is in effect a paragon as well as the ‘rival’.6 Since the subject compulsively imitates the model in being drawn to the object, desire is ‘essentially mimetic’.7 Girard points out this unmistakeably mimetic nature of desire in childhood, which should indeed be obvious to us all. The specific desire burning in a child is invariably connected to the apparent desire of simply another child that is in the peripheral vision of the desiring child in relation to an object desired. ‘Adult desire’, Girard notes, ‘is virtually identical’ with the desire we observe with children. The sole and frustrating difference perhaps is that, unlike children, adults are pathetically self-conscious, tending therefore to hide or block this mechanism for the ‘lack of being’ or the hollowness it implies.8 Moreover, again, as with children, desire that is based on fluid and fluctuating imitation is ultimately inexhaustible and full of paradoxes. The discontent that sets in with most of us soon after possessing what we have long desired may mean that in the end desire aims what is impossible; as in the famous Groucho Marx joke: ‘I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member.’ This absurdity is not far removed from that of recognition as highlighted by Kojève, more or less in the same context, in reading the Hegelian interaction of the master and the slave: the recognition sought by the master to be a master, which is to be issued only by a slave, inevitably so, becomes worthless instantly, for the recognition at issue is understood as an appreciation extended by a mere dependent consciousness, a slave.

It all starts with desire, then, the fundamental motivation behind human action, when the action in question is motivated by more than an automated or physical need, like hunger. In responding to hunger, that which grips you is both fixed and limited. Yet, when you desire, what you can include (p.11) in your desire is not; desire is measureless, insatiable and never-ending. This, according to Girard, is an idiosyncratic trait that bonds us with archaic societies, even perhaps with animals, where, as Nietzsche famously says, we really belong; since desire as the sole distinguishing evidence is captivated by an immaterial object of desire, we are left, as with animals, with need only, which has a fixed object beyond the ‘game’ that defines desire. That is, the difference between humans and animals could be only one of degree rather than category – befitting the possibly overrated human sophistication – and observed as a marker for grading also among different species of animals; although, I should add, Girard himself would be at least partly uneasy with this Nietzschean conclusion, for Girard goes on to posit religion, an epiphenomenon of desire, as a fundamental gap that sets humans apart from animals.

Desire as such is predicated on a primordial form of violent rivalry, for (1) the model not only possesses or desires the object that is desired by the desiring subject, but enthrals also the person of the desiring subject who is consumed by her or his desire. This evidently signals a transgressive sway by the imitated over the imitator. More significant still, because the specific desire only ends or receives fulfilment, even if ephemeral, with the subject copying the identity of the other, in the final analysis, (2) desire is the wish to ‘be’ the other, to steal the identity of the model – a manifest aggression on the part of the imitator; that is, the model will be pleased with being imitated by the subject, but also displeased as the subject wishes simultaneously to be her or him, ending the ranking between the two. By the same token, in mimicking the other, (3) the subject comes effectively to do away with alterity, which is a condition for the self. You are (to be) only through the desire mediated by the other. Yet, when you become literally the other instead, you end up practically devoid of the other, the source of your identity. Ontologically this is an impasse based on (now) self-inflicted aggression. Finally, (4) a basic contradiction emerges in this play of desire insofar as the imitation, as dictated by desire at the cost of difference, becomes a threat to the wider community that valorises differentiation for its systems of identity and meaning. ‘Sameness’ will aggressively abort signification. That is why, Girard notes, twins formed a source of ‘terror’ in archaic communities, leading to a ‘crisis’, which would often culminate in the sacrifice of one.9

(p.12) This is an encounter between the subject and the other, with a set of fundamental antagonisms attached to it, taking place in the vastly important domain of meaning, identity and prestige. To repeat, inviting rivalry, desire is perpetual and irremediably conflict inducing. It is to do with the hopeless insecurity formed by the void in the subject’s being, to be filled by the ‘otherly’ desire towards a temporary sense of completeness. Yet, when fulfilled, the imitation threatens the disidentity that is focal to both the self and the larger community. ‘Thus, mimesis coupled with desire’, argues Girard, ‘leads automatically to conflict.’10 The whole process appears to be immensely destructive as well as ineluctable. A formidable instance of violence overall, this in turn brings about an ontological crisis. The community, based on differentiation and disidentity, will not let itself be destroyed by the mimesis that defines desire. To this end, the community defends and saves itself by responding to the violence fermented by desire with more violence – a ‘violent cure’.11

The cure is invariably to be found in a ‘surrogate victim’, who is singled out as the one ‘polluted’, thus putting at risk the whole community. A ritual ‘sacrifice’ then duly immolates the random victim. Collectively sacrificed, the victim serves to prevent the ‘contamination’ of the rest. Arbitrarily defined and picked on, this victim is of course no more than only a ‘scapegoat’. Girard maintains: ‘Any community that has fallen prey to violence or has been stricken by some overwhelming catastrophe hurls itself blindly into the search for a scapegoat.’12 The sacrifice in question is primordial: it is a form of communal violence that is holy, ritualistic and shared. ‘At a single blow, collective violence wipes out all memory of the past’,13 and the community becomes sort of cathartically reborn. Those who relegate the sacrificial event habitually to a distant and now surpassed phase of human history, Girard thus claims, ‘remain the prisoners of the theology they have not fully analysed’.14 Accordingly, properly understood, one of the functions of this ‘theology’ is to ‘mystify’ the event at any cost. The scapegoat mechanism transforms the random victim into a ‘monster’, to which the crisis is imputed. This monster that imperils the very foundation of the community is at once, and paradoxically, a ‘saviour’ in the shape of a sacrifice that lends urgent succour to the community, leading it out of the looming mimetic confusion. The whole process then comes to be obscured through collective, popularly (p.13) upheld narratives or myths, that is, a theology that manufactures paramount credulity. Violence embodied, and cryptically communicated at the discursive level, this theology in turn proceeds to perform duties for the community, warning against, and holding in check, possible transgressions that are set off by the covetousness let loose through the mimetic quality of desire. The narratives that thus mystify and conceal the founding violence, Girard warns, are not at all to be trifled with: this is how the community perennially subdues violence. By the same token, a wayward attempt at ‘demystification’ of the sacrifice, revealing the victim as only random, a scapegoat, would strip the event of its crucial function, leading to incredulity and consequently to surging violence.15

Various forms of sacrifice in history, human or animal, Girard asserts, constitute one single and foundational event. ‘The function of sacrifice is to quell violence within the community and to prevent conflicts from erupting.’16 Again, to reiterate, just as desire is inevitable, so is violence triggered by the mimetic quality of desire. Violence thus unleashed is then controlled by a constitutive violence that takes the form of communal sacrifice through scapegoating. Girard goes further and contends that violence in this specific sense, namely as the founding violence, obscured in a theology, is not something that is to be confined to archaic communities only. This, he argues, is basically how violence is controlled also in modern times. The workings of the sacrificial rite as ideally or typically observed in the past do subsist, he points out, in modern systems of justice for instance, serving much towards the same end.17 In both cases – the archaic and the modern – a machinery of scapegoating turns arbitrary ‘victimage’ into the protection of community, which is based on difference threatened by mimetic desire. Steal, and you are going to be penalised. Is there anything other than the ultimately arbitrary definition in the law that designates you as a thief? None. The law makes you a victim for challenging through covetous desire the fundamental orders of differentiation in the community; in this case, the concept of property. The sacrifice, as you are punished, serves then to unify and reinstitute the community. The paradoxical (monster–saviour) relationship with the surrogate victim helps the community to resolve that which is on the horizon and which promises to be an erratic and pervasive state of conflict. The community, picking on a victim to avert more sinister and omnipresent victimage (p.14) in its midst that may eventually destroy it, introduces a sacred or sanctioned violence in order to prevent the brewing ‘profane’ violence.

Here is the crux of the matter that may put the whole question of mimesis under a new light. This account of communal witch-hunt notably inverts the received wisdom on scapegoating: that which is persecuted and victimised in the community historically is not difference but, on the contrary, possible moves by members of the community towards jeopardising of difference. Accordingly, weakening difference outside the systemic or allowed lines will irretrievably undermine and destroy the specific system of differentiation. ‘Religious, ethnic or national minorities are never actually reproached for their difference,’ Girard thus explains, ‘but for not being as different as expected, and in the end for not differing at all’.18 Marring or reducing the semantic value of difference may amount to a most dangerous revelation, unveiling the constructed or arbitrary nature of distinctions and polarised identities in the community, in turn shaking the faith in the established order of meaning. Therefore the principal abomination in the community is not dissimilitude, but precisely the emergent incongruence and incredulity towards it. ‘In all the vocabulary of tribal or national prejudices’, comments Girard, ‘hatred is expressed, not for difference, but for its absence.’19

To recapitulate, then, desire is structurally mimetic; it is always already the desire of the other. Practically bracketing off the object of desire, which is trivial, desire ultimately instigates a copying and compromising of the identity of the other, and subsequently a subverting of the very self, by playing down difference. This in turn induces conflict, to be overcome by a sacred violence that consists of a round of scapegoating, victimage and sacrifice. Desire as such is at the heart of all violence. Moreover, from the very beginning, all manifestations of human culture are based on this violence that maintains dissimilitude in the community in the face of mimetic desire. A theology that is the main thrust of this culture points to likely, albeit arbitrary, culprits poised to annihilate differentiation. This is how Girard declares violence as constitutive of all culture: ‘I maintain that the original act of violence is the matrix of all ritual and mythological significations.’20 Religion, for one thing, is unequivocally some such epiphenomenon of violence patrolling the sensitive zone between desire and fear, both inflicting and containing violence along the way, although Girard himself would not agree with this radical (p.15) inference, as he seeks somehow to salvage Christianity, which he views as a historically unique instance that not only acknowledges (rather than mystifies) the innocence of the victim but also somehow departs from the settled tradition of sacrifice.21 Yet, against Girard, it is possible to construe also this apparent ‘demystification’ observed with Christianity as simply a fresh template of mystification, which, rather like the modern systems of justice, conceivably shifts sacrifice to a new plane, as opposed to removing it altogether.

This does not mean that the pattern of violence and the sacred outlined here is entirely stationary, excluding transformation in time. Girard indicates a crucial discontinuity in this regard between ancient and modern practices of the sacrificial rite. To be sure, the earlier civilisations and the present-day, modern civilisation are very much in continuity on the whole. Both are discernibly based on a violent sacred, that is, an order in the face of the mimetic, subversive workings of desire. The modern state, as per Weber, exists only to control this violence through its ‘benign’ monopoly. The monopoly at once reproduces the age-old mechanism of scapegoating, with ultimately ‘arbitrary’ victims subjected to a legitimate and holy violence in the name of unifying and saving the community. At the global level, human rights discourse can be seen simply to mimic the state monopoly on violence by operating through basically the same principles: it seeks to defragment world community via equally ‘arbitrary’ scapegoating, which paradoxically restores the fragmentation or differentiation that is the basis of meaning and identity. All the same, a major discontinuity with the archaic tradition, Girard explains, is the fact that it no longer is possible for all in the community to ‘buy’ the victim as a monster, for the process has been greatly demystified in modern times. As a result, instead of producing a lasting sacred, violence now produces only more violence.22 Girard’s own example is the French Revolution; Robespierre, eventually scapegoated, was a scapegoater himself earlier. This demystification, which has to do with an evolving ontology, rather than Christianity (although, again, Girard would disagree), appears to be a major epistemic break. Avenues of incredulity left irreducibly open, the lynching of the ‘innocent’ no longer brings about a simple purification, restoring stability in the community. The practice of scapegoating, ostensibly unrelenting despite this radical break, leads instead simply to more and more violence.

(p.16) New Sacred

The kinship this account reveals with the instances of victimage that accompanied the regime change in Turkey, leading only to growing violence, is striking. The Gülen community, an ally with a formidable presence during the transition, understood to have mercilessly ‘lynched’ the loyalists of the old order on behalf of the emerging regime, would soon face a similar fate. Moreover, Erdoğan would be the victim of an almost identical lynching. The ‘innocence’ of the victims in such lynching is to do, let us recall, not with the absolute irreproachability of those lynched, such as Erdoğan, which was hardly the case, but with the ‘causal’ incongruity or the randomness that defined the victimage. In bringing a number of damning corruption cases against the government, the prosecutors appeared to be after a new sacred, while pretending to have purely legal concerns. Care was taken to conceal the real, foundational violence via the political trials engineered against the leading dissidents, the Gülenist assault on Erdoğan, or the subsequent battering of the Gülenists. The formal charges levelled, such as coup-plotting, espionage and corruption, did perhaps have validity at some level, yet we have every reason to believe that those charges had little to do with the bashings at issue. The actual violence was a purifying, constitutive violence, mystified largely under the incipient sacred of the ‘anti-coup’ politics. The mimetic quality of desire in a set of relationships of rivalry had thus already ensured a basic continuity with the old regime.

Notably, the overall scapegoating under the new regime would issue signs that the victimage was being conducted, as is the pattern indicated by Girard, not for the ‘difference’ attributed to the victim, but precisely for the lack of it. A vivid example would be the treatment of non-Muslims ‘affiliated’ with Turkey and Turkishness historically, considered to be a threat to the communal identity simply for weakening the assumed difference. Erdoğan was known to have used on separate occasions, once in 2011 and later in 2014, the ethnic tags ‘Greek’ and ‘Armenian’ respectively, as offensive words denoting insult and slur, particularly so, because the said ethnicities had been attributed to him personally by the neo-nationalist (ulusalcı) adversaries loyal to the old regime.23 ‘They called me names’, he would complain in the presidential election campaign of 2014. ‘They even called me “Armenian”, do excuse (p.17) the language.’ Clearly, it would hardly have occurred to Erdoğan to refer in the same tone to some radically alien ethnicities, namely those that were not somehow ‘entangled’ with the Turkish identity. On the contrary, sufficiently removed from the local setting, the ‘complete’ others, such as the German or Indian, would perhaps have been exotically and seductively acceptable, even flattering. Yet Greeks and Armenians were simply too close. They were to be held at an arm’s length for constituting a ‘threat’ through an undermining of identity by exposing the constructed or arbitrary nature of differences in identity formation. That is, the claims mixing Turkish identity with those of Armenians and Greeks served to weaken the differences assumed between the Turk and the Armenian, the Turk and the Greek, which was anathema, for the fusion articulated in the allegations, linking Erdoğan to those identities, revealed the haphazard way in which identities were assembled locally. In the assertions that displeased Erdoğan, some ‘valuable’ differences appeared to be somewhat feeble or readily transgressed. Quite paradoxically, bigotry that emphasised – rather than obliterated – differences thus immediately found a fertile ground. In other words, the Greek and the Armenian were easily ‘wasted’ by Erdoğan, not for being different, but for being not different enough; they were in fact confusingly close. Blurring the distinction between the self and the other more formidably than a radical other, the ‘domestic’ other was a threat by shaking the faith in the system of signification at work locally, amounting to perilous mimetic violence, in turn to be countered only by more violence, with the Armenian and the Greek identities readily sacrificed.

The scapegoat thus effectively imagined and wasted is both malevolent (‘polluted’, therefore to be sacrificed) and benevolent (‘purifying’ through victimage that restores the order). Remarkably, this paradox may extend also to the conception of God. As Girard observes, ‘gods are as much scapegoats as the others.’24 The Soma mine disaster of May 2014, which killed over 300 miners for callous neglect of basic safety, which I discuss in this book (Chapter 10), would prompt the government to send to the grief-stricken area a detachment of members of a religious community,25 while banning the locals from having any contact with human rights activists and lawyers. The righteous out-of-towners would call on the miner families door to door, presumably pointing out and alerting to God’s mysterious ways of punishment (p.18) and reward, ostensibly in order to calm down the small mining community. God would thereby be affirmed to be as much malevolent, killing mercilessly to teach a lesson, as he was indeed also benevolent. Girard notes: God ‘crushes the faithful in order to bring them back to the straight path; he corrects their weaknesses which prevent him from immediately showing his beneficence. He who loves greatly punishes greatly.’26 Did this mystification work at all in Soma? Apparently not. Erdoğan would receive possibly the worst nightmare of his career when he would later visit Soma, with the locals taunting him on the town’s high street. Unable to control his anger, Erdoğan would improvise a tough-guy act as seen in subsequently released video captures, inviting protesters to ‘come close’ and repeat the jeers to his face. Surrounded by security forces, Erdoğan would then batter with his own hands the first local he could corner in a market, screaming at the man, ‘You, Israeli spawn!’27 The reference was merely to another ethnicity, which, as with the Armenian and the Greek, had been used before to describe Erdoğan himself, and which was thus clearly of a kind that might threaten to muddle up the revered (yet insecure) Turkish identity.

It was no surprise, then, that the use of power following the regime change was being increasingly observed to ‘copy’ the old one. The long-harboured Islamist desire appeared to have been modelled precisely after the desire of its other, the rival, which Islamists were at once supposed to have fought and defeated. The evidence in this regard, fast accumulating from 2011 as the regime change became complete, would be abundant to dispel possible doubts as to what exactly was happening under the new rule. The denouncing of the demands towards a widening of political participation in the society as mere conspiracy, a tool used potently against Kurds and the pious Muslims during the old regime, would resurface and be directed at the young and restless urbanites that memorably attracted the attention of the world public opinion at the Gezi protests of 2013. Again, allegations of treason and plain espionage about dissidence, only to bolster the authoritarian rule in the country, which was a permanent feature of the old regime, would come increasingly to be put to work. In so doing, the new power holders would arguably outdo the old ones in places through a somewhat brazen engagement in identity politics at the cost of identities other than those linked to that of the pious and practising Muslims. A Jacobin social engineering that would be (p.19) growingly exercised, a declared policy from 2011 apparently seeking a metamorphosis of a whole new generation through education, and dictating life styles on the community, was also clearly part of the desire appropriated from the old regime. Added to all this was a continuing centralisation of the higher education system and a partisan judiciary, the tell-tale signs of the old order in marked continuity under the new one. Moreover, the new rulers could be said to have greatly done away with the distinction between the ruling political party and the public authority, with local governmental agencies, the governorships, having gradually been put at the service of the party, exactly as in the practice of the republican rule in its heyday in the 1930s and 1940s – an era otherwise fiercely criticised by the new power holders. As is well known, a regular feature of the old regime throughout was coups d’état, disruptions in constitutional order, taking place almost once in every decade. The new regime would not refrain from reproducing this trait either, having effectively put aside the constitutional order from 25 December 2013, in response to the grave corruption reports compiled by the police and the judiciary involving the government. Again, behaving as an ‘executive’ president in blatant disregard of his largely ceremonial role in the established system, Erdoğan would later declare: ‘Accept it or not, Turkey’s administrative system has de facto changed.’28

Finally, an imprint of the first couple of decades after modern Turkey had been set up in 1923, a leadership cult that dictated the virtual infallibility of the leader, in turn steering towards public lynching of the critics, including figures within the ruling circles, even government ministers, would come to be the trademark also of the new regime from 2011. An ironic give-away in this regard was Erdoğan starting the election campaign that would ascend him to Atatürk’s throne as the president of the Republic from the Black Sea town of Samsun, where Atatürk had started his legendary campaign of national liberation in 1919 against the invading powers. Meticulously trailing Atatürk from Samsun to Erzurum in the east, Erdoğan would dub his campaign as a war of ‘national liberation’, claiming that the very survival of the nation was at stake under the imminent threat of domestic and international foes out to get the nation. When he was about to be seated in the throne, as he came out of the presidential poll victorious, having received close to 52 per cent of the overall votes, he would be crooned and praised in ways that would (p.20) greatly reproduce the Kemalist leadership cult. True to the tradition that had formed in the 1930s, the following by a noted literary figure would be published in a pro-government newspaper to greet Erdoğan two days before he would be sworn in (except for the bracketed ones, the dots in the extract do not indicate omissions in the text but are actually part of the original, ostensibly for the maximum ‘hymnal’ effect in the veneration):

For eyes that can see, the shimmering lights of the birth of a new Turkey are becoming visible …

The architect of this new Turkey is Recep Tayyip Erdoğan …

Under his leadership … Under his guidance …

With contours that are increasingly more distinct, the profile of this true leader is coming into view on the horizon … (…)

The people of Turkey are about to entrust their future to the acumen and sagacity of this leader … Or, rather, they did that already …

They reckon that the leader whom they put to the test several times is once again going to make proud his people and country …

They stand by him even on those occasions when he gets stood up …

The new Turkey is taking shape under his leadership … As for the leader, he defines himself as a common trooper among his people, and this is precisely why he is being loved …29

Replacing Erdoğan’s name with that of Atatürk would give us a sample of the typical acclamations of the latter historically, to say nothing of the alarming notions of national leadership and guidance, with the ‘nation’ understood as an organic being, for a political movement that previously had strong democratic aspirations. Actually, exaltations of leaders in this unusual cast had barely been the case locally since World War II. Often associated with the interwar leaders of the country, principally Atatürk, the original cult and the attendant hero-worship were synchronic to some extent with the treatment of some of the European leaders at the time. This said, it also needs to be remembered that venerations of the type towards rulers by established literary personalities had a firm rooting in old Turkish literary practice, in which praising the qualities of statesmen formed a poetic genre in itself – a tradition which, coupled with the European leadership cult of the time, would be elevated to new heights in the 1930s. Just as with the earlier Atatürk cult, those (p.21) few secular intellectuals that persisted in their support of Erdoğan’s leadership would justify his ‘authoritarian streak’, having readily acknowledged it, by resorting to a claim of a singularly intransigent opposition,30 comparable to the way the early republican rule by Atatürk was habitually justified by the republicans by pointing to the extraordinary circumstances in the years following World War I, both domestically, when the regime newly in place was fighting a fierce domestic opposition, and internationally, with interwar authoritarianisms in the offing in Europe.

The new order, greatly mimicking the old one, and introduced through a series of decisive gestures from 2007 to 2011, and to be in full swing from 2012, is the central event in this book. Yet the pattern of violence and the sacred motivated by desire as outlined here could well be argued to suffuse the whole history of a series of decisive ‘breaks’ in political modernisation (muasırlaşma, later çağdaşlaşma) in the country, roughly from the mid-nineteenth century.31

The most salient feature of political modernisation already under way in the first quarter of the nineteenth century was growing centralisation at the cost of the local notables, who had been bestowed upon with ‘feudal’ privileges until then. The centralisation would make great headway with the new administrative measures, remarkably facilitated through the first ever population censuses in the Ottoman community akin to the modern practices, conducted from 1831 and later, more fully, yet still partial, in 1844.32 Predictably risking a redoubling of the traditional absolutism, the centralisation would both produce, and in turn be carried out by, a new class of bureaucrats who would gradually shift the focus of political power from a solitary monarch to the emergent bureaucracy, called the Sublime Port (Bâb-ı Âlî). In close consultation and cooperation with the representatives of the European powers in Istanbul in regulating the state business, the bureaucrats would urge and draft a landmark Imperial Reform Edict in 1839, which would initiate a new era in the history of modernisation in the country known as the Tanzîmât (literally ‘the Regulations’). The edict, declared with unusual splendour, sought ostensibly to ease the new absolutism that came with the greater centralisation through a political commitment to the protection of some of the basic rights and of the rule of law. This commitment would prompt a uniquely busy phase of legal reforms in the country, as reflected in swift codification (p.22) efforts that blended the traditional sources of the law with new European legal initiatives. An Imperial Reform Edict in 1856, communicating a political will to end the discrimination against non-Muslim subjects conclusively, would be appended within weeks to the Paris Treaty of 1856, which would make Ottoman Turkey the first ever power outside the European core to be admitted to European public law (that is, the future international law) as an equal participant. The era also witnessed the advent of an Ottoman public sphere through print media, comparable to that in Europe at the time, beyond the traditional venues of political exchange such as the coffee houses and the public baths.

A new variety of intellectuals who were, again, the product of the era would form a broad reformist coalition as the Young Ottomans, increasingly advocating a concept of limited government (meşrûtiyet) based on arguments that hastily and precariously mixed European ideas of human rights and constitutionalism with the local concepts and principles, such as meşveret (consultation), the Islamic notion that urges dialogue and deliberation in worldly affairs.33 Set up in 1865, the Young Ottomans are known to have been ‘the first political opposition in the modern sense’34 in Ottoman history. The fact that the designation would in time reach beyond Turkey, especially after the organisation’s move to Europe in 1867, evolving into a generic term as ‘Young Turks’ that signified a new and radical opposition of the young more or less in all contexts, should testify to the impact and stamina of the movement.

Series of Breaks

The first critical break in the history of political modernisation in the country would be initiated with the deposition of Sultan Abdülaziz in 1876 through a bureaucratic coup. Held answerable for standing in the way of urgently needed reforms, the sultan was probably murdered after the dethroning, although the official version would be that he committed suicide. Skipping the brief (about three months) period when Murad V took to the throne, only to be deposed through allegations of mental instability brought about by alcoholism, Abdülhamid II would be invited to the post as the new sultan. This would follow a rather rigorous interview by the reformist bureaucrats, when the future sultan would promise to cooperate with the bureaucracy, chiefly (p.23) by allowing and promulgating the first ever Ottoman Constitution (Kânûn-ı Esâsî) towards a limited government. Relating the heavy toll in the transition, namely the murder or suicide of a sultan, of a chief of staff (serasker) known possibly to have instigated the homicide of the sultan, of a number of ministers (nâzır), and the derangement of yet another sultan, a semi-official historian of republican Turkey would later describe the events as of a kind ‘that might surprise even authors of tragedies’.35 Curiously, this historian would note immediately that the ‘victims’ sacrificed in this transition from an ‘old’ order to a ‘new’ one had been only a ‘natural’ cost, adding that the losses were ‘by no means for nothing’.36 Ironically, the same historian would then proceed to describe the era of Abdülhamid II, which lasted almost thirty-three years from 1876, as one of unbridled oppression barely experienced or seen until then. Having promulgated the Constitution drafted by a progressive group of bureaucrats and intellectuals in the year he came into power, with a newly elected parliament to be inaugurated in the following year, Abdülhamid II would nonetheless act in 1878 to indefinitely suspend the parliament and go on becoming the sultan in the modern history of the country that would succeed equating his name with archetypal political oppression in the eyes of all of the otherwise fiercely conflicting political forces, including some of the leading Islamists. The aversion also by the Islamists contributed further irony, because the foreign policy that defined the era would later be recalled as one of pan-Islamism open to the newly formed, anti-colonial Islamist ideology. Abdülhamid II centralised all power, formed a daunting intelligence apparatus and introduced a vast system of censorship. ‘Homeland’, ‘freedom’ and ‘limited government’ would be among the terms on a list of expressions strictly prohibited in the print media. He would go as far as banning the very book Üss-i İnkılâb (Grounds for Revolution/Reformation) that he himself had commissioned in the first year of his reign to Ahmet Mithat Efendi, a master literary figure of the time, and which had rejected all political oppression, advocating basic rights and a constitutional rule instead.37

The next break would come in the early twentieth century. In the last decade of the nineteenth century, the Young Ottomans had evolved into a de facto political party under the name of the Committee of Union and Progress (İttihâd ve Terakkî Cemiyyeti, CUP), having secretly organised bureaucrats, (p.24) intellectuals and some young military officers in a concerted opposition against the political rule. The plan of action by the CUP to start a nationwide rebellion in 1908 would force Abdülhamid II to end the moratorium on the Constitution, suspended thirty years earlier. The proclamation of this so-called Second Constitutional Period (İkinci Meşrûtiyet), after the aborted one in 1876, would create an atmosphere of optimism and political festivity in the country arguably still unparalleled. The CUP, now a legalised political party, would win the elections in the same year, with the sole contending group, the Liberal Party (Ahrâr Fırkası), failing to have elected any of its candidates for the parliament. The regime change thus initiated would be complete with the suppression of a series of events breaking out on 13 April in the following year,38 which the official history would come to describe as a ‘rebellion of the reactionaries’.39 The rebels had allegedly protested against the latest tuning in the political order by shouting on the streets of Istanbul their passionate support for the old sharia regime. The third army positioned in Salonika (Thessaloniki), a CUP stronghold, would depart for Istanbul at once and quash the rebellion within about two weeks after its start. Charged with inciting the rebellion, rather iniquitously so – and paradoxically in purported breach of none other than the sharia that the rebels had championed40– Abdülhamid II would be deposed through a bureaucratic coup soon after the suppression of the rebellion. The deposed sultan would be exiled to Salonika and Sultan Mehmed Reşad would be brought to the throne to replace him. Amid allegations, still unsettled by historians, that the ‘rebellion’ had in fact been engineered either by the CUP having been after a pretext, or the opposition,41 a military court would sentence forty-nine people to death, thirty-seven to fortified life imprisonment, and hundreds of others to incarceration and exile.42 More importantly perhaps, the incident would contribute to the vocabulary of the governing order the epithet ‘reactionary’ (mürteci), a formidable curse that would be put to good use for about a century in the political life of the country to stigmatise and disenfranchise opposition. With the exception of a spell (of about six months) from mid-1912, a CUP oligarchy would dominate politics and drag the country, to all intents and purposes, from one disaster to another. The catastrophes experienced under the CUP rule included World War I and, more appallingly, the systematic annihilation of the large Ottoman-Armenian community during the war for (p.25) both a diabolic concern for security and, at the same time, in a ghastly experiment towards forging a somewhat homogenous nation, ostensibly with the Muslim Ottomans tragically cleansed from the freshly lost Balkan territories in mind. Defining resistance to the heavy oppression under Abdülhamid II as its whole raison d’être, the CUP is generally thought to have incomparably aggravated the already miserable state of basic rights and freedoms as soon as it was in full control from January 1913, so much so that many intellectuals formerly critical of Abdülhamid II for his oppressive policies would appear before long to fondly recall the time of oppression under Abdülhamid II, as with the poet Süleyman Nazif, stating in a poem: ‘Pining now for the days of the former oppression’ (Hasret olduk eski istibdâda biz). The CUP leaders would flee the country in a state of panic following the armistice towards the end of 1918. Tantamount to a total surrender, this deal would bring the war to a close for Ottoman Turkey.

A growing national resistance in the form of separate civilian initiatives by locals throughout inner Asia Minor would then be successfully organised from mid-1919 by a defiant Ottoman pasha, Mustafa Kemal, who would later come to be known as Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey. Engaging mainly the Greek occupation forces in the west of the country, this popular movement would sideline the administration in Istanbul by procuring a hard-fought peace deal with the victors of World War I (Britain, France, Italy and Greece) in July 1923, the Lausanne Peace Treaty. The National Assembly created by the resistance movement three years earlier in Ankara as an alternative to the one in Istanbul would soon vote and declare Turkey a ‘republic’. The republican Turkey would have the charismatic leader of the national resistance, Mustafa Kemal, as its first president. Within months, early in the following year, the National Assembly would abolish the institution of caliphate as leadership of Muslims worldwide, a status nominally held since the sixteenth century, and send into exile the members of the imperial Ottoman dynasty.

This apparently dramatic break with the Ottoman order would, however, barely hide the more profound continuity between the old and the new. The connection would soon be bitterly grasped by some of the intelligentsia and dignitaries who, having quickly turned dissenters, would be promptly suppressed, despite most of them having been on the forefront of the national (p.26) resistance movement with Mustafa Kemal Pasha only recently. The dissidents were of the opinion, as succinctly articulated by Erik Zürcher, ‘that calling the state a republic did not in itself bring freedom and that the real difference was between despotism and democracy, whether under a republican or a monarchic system’.43 The increasingly tightened political control, justified through the new sacred of ‘modernisation’ at any cost, would come to pale, to a certain extent, the despotisms and persecutions under either of the previous regimes, the CUP rule or the sultanate of Abdülhamid II before it. The confederation of local organisations that had formed the resistance during the war of national liberation, the Defence of Rights (Müdafaa-i Hukûk) movement, had already merged in 1922 with the ruling Republican People’s Party (Cumhuriyet Halk Fırkası, CHP).44 The party would in turn be melded with the state apparatus, initiating the so-called ‘single-party regime’ that would last until 1950. The regime would thwart a notion of democratic competition practically at all levels, notably replacing elections with appointments for the deputies in the legislative organ. Besides rival political parties, particularly a liberal initiative by the once close friends of Mustafa Kemal, the Progressive Republican Party (Terakkiperver Cumhuriyet Fırkası), long-standing non-governmental organisations that were not controlled directly by the regime would also be dissolved, such as the nationalist Turkish Hearths (Türk Ocakları) and a dedicated women’s organisation, the Turkish Women’s Union (Türk Kadınlar Birliği). A close watch of the academic world would complement the total print media control under the regime, with the nonconformists fired in the early 1930s from the only academic institution of the time, Istanbul University (Darülfünûn). Finally, dress codes for the general public would be introduced, imposing assumed modern outfits on all, to be backed by callous criminal regulations. Most of this would be facilitated by an emergency rule (Takrîr-i Sükûn) established in the country on the pretext of the Kurdish insurrection in eastern provinces in 1925.

Speaking of the Kurds, the new regime would continue the CUP experiment in fashioning a homogenous nation and render invisible minorities such as the Kurds, Assyrians, Jews and Greeks. To be greatly expelled through a population exchange with Greece, most of the latter group was in effect formed by the survivors of the little-known slaughter of tens of thousands during the Turkish War of Independence, especially in the Pontus region (p.27) along the Black Sea coast. A merciless wealth tax (varlık vergisi) imposed on the leftover non-Muslim minorities in the years 1942 and 1943 would effectively contrive towards the ultimate dispossession and literal pauperisation of the non-Muslims.

The Independence Tribunals (İstiklâl Mahkemeleri), with their originally wartime jurisdiction extended, and active between 1920 and 1927, would issue thousands of death sentences, mostly on the basis of flimsy charges, and crush all opposition worthy of the name. A researcher who would later desperately seek to defend these notorious judicial bodies set up in various regions would nevertheless be forced to note that the tribunals at issue ‘did not operate in accordance with legal rules but by revolutionary principles’.45 In addition to this simply astonishing toll in finishing off opposition, many intellectuals, some of whom having once been rather close to Mustafa Kemal, would be either officially deported or choose to be self-exiled, such as Mehmed Âkif, a moderate Islamist and the author of the words of the new national hymn, and Hâlide Edib, a famed liberal and early feminist who was cosmopolitan enough to write some of her books directly in English – presumably considered as ‘too European’ for the new regime. Beyond the innocence or randomness as revealed in the causal incongruity in the punishments accorded, which is how I have defined victimhood for the purpose of the argument here, the victims sacrificed by the regime would also and glaringly reveal the monster–saviour paradox in the rituals of communal violence staged: somehow polluted, the victims would at once serve to purify the now vigorously reshaped society through the immolations that they would enable.

In short, setting in motion a territorially smaller and radically reformed Turkey, the modern republic instituted in 1923 would perversely reproduce, if not intensify, the authoritarian frame of mind that it would ironically and passionately historicise with the rise of the new regime. This same paradox would come to be roughly applicable also to the ‘liberal’ reformers who would seize power in 1950 with a switchover to the multi-party system – ostensibly as part of an effort, coupled with a perceived Soviet menace at the onset of the Cold War,46 to integrate the country to the newly victorious ‘democratic world’, as World War II would end the bulk of authoritarianisms. The liberals organised through the Democrat Party (Demokrat Parti, DP), a breakaway from the CHP, would show next to no interest as they came into power, (p.28) in structurally transforming the system that was clearly open to macabre abuses, designed purely as a tool of ‘benign’ oppression, with indifference to genuine democratic accountability. A cynical majoritarianism would thus shortly set in, and the liberal aspirations articulated earlier would gradually degenerate into a populist autocracy under the banner of the new sacred, ‘the popular will’, a notion claimed to have been overlooked by the foregoing modernisers. Before its first term in a decade-long administration was over, the DP would already legislate and lay claim for the state treasury to the assets of the CHP, the former ruling party from which the DP had just disaffiliated.47 The non-governmental organisations closely linked to the CHP would also be dissolved, with all of their property confiscated. The oppression would grow rather than slacken in the later phases of the DP rule, leading to increased media censorship, control of universities, restrictions on the freedom of assembly and on the political activities of the opposition. Intolerance to criticism would be combined with practices that had gained the preceding regime under the CHP some notoriety, such as a suspected electoral fraud in 1957 and bigotry towards the non-Muslim minorities, notably the state-engineered pogroms in Istanbul in September 1955. The ill-treatment of the opposition would be on a dramatic rise in the last years of the DP rule, parallel to a fast declining economy and an alarming fall in popular support, prompting the government to take steps towards an ultimate liquefaction of the CHP through the work of an investigation committee set up in the parliament for that purpose. Hardly overstating the case, Feroz Ahmad notes on the whole DP era: ‘The positive contribution of the DP to the development of democratic practice in Turkey was virtually nil; however, their negative contribution was considerable.’48 The liberal-turned-populist rule would end in May 1960, with the military, which some would claim to have been egged on by the opposition,49 taking over the administration.

The coup would usher in the penultimate break in the history of political modernisation in the country prior to the transformation to be led by the AKP about half a century later, which is what this book is about. A set of show trials conducted by the military would issue a total of fifteen death sentences, eventually only three of which to be executed (the prime minister and two members of the cabinet), and thirty-one life imprisonments, in addition to various other judgements of incarceration. Among the (p.29) victims in the new period would be members of the Greek community, who had been exempted from the forcible population exchange with Greece in early republican Turkey and who had survived the pogroms of 1955. They would be either officially deported or intimidated and driven away from 1964 during the renewed political tension over Cyprus, reducing the number of the Greeks in the country to only a few thousand.50 The forced Islamisation of the remaining Armenians would gain a new momentum.51 Forms of violence in the absence of the elementary rule of law and fair trial would enable, and in turn become mystified through, an awakening of the earlier (and yet ‘incomplete’) sacred of the republican modernisation at any cost. The move would be reflected in the fresh variety of tutelary democracy introduced in the newly drafted Constitution of 1961, with novel measures to foil possible relapses inimical to modernisation. This basic law, often described as libertarian for the rights and freedoms it invoked and protected in the immediate aftermath of the ruthless oppression under the DP rule, would withhold spheres of politics from the elected power, bringing about an almost formal distinction between the ‘state’ and the ‘government’. The new measures initiated would instigate the order that would later come to be called an order of trusteeship or tutelage (vesayet) under the bureaucratic authority, namely a virtually autonomous army to be represented in the executive organ in a newly set up National Security Council, and a fortified system of high courts to keep electoral majorities in check.52 A fine-tuning in 1980 via a singularly brutal military takeover would add to this order a centralised higher education system beyond the reach of elected governments.

The military, the high courts and the higher education system, comprising the ruling bureaucracy together, would be long in place and tried out, invariably with success, in keeping a tight rein on politics when the AKP government from November 2002 pitched in a set of confrontational policies (chiefly on Cyprus and the European integration) in 2004. The subsequent change in the whole order, rapidly taking shape from 2007, would be complete by 2011. The discernible signs of a new authoritarianism under the AKP rule would become apparent crudely from early 2012, as detailed in this book.

(p.30) Change and Continuity

This account of breaks in the history of political modernisation in the country reveals a succession of attempts at transformation following the monarchical absolutism of the mid-nineteenth century: namely, constitutionalism (1876), neo-constitutionalism (1909), republicanism53 (1923), populism (1950), neo-republicanism (1961) and neo-populism (2011). Each of these orders was organised around a sacred, epitomised, respectively, in ‘freedom’ in the second half of the nineteenth century, in the ‘nation/patria’ in the early twentieth century, and finally in ‘modernisation’ and the ‘popular will’ in the republican era. All of these sacreds originated in meticulously concealed ritual sacrifices and lynching in a ceaseless series of scapegoating and victimage that were ultimately traceable to specific instances of mimetic rivalry in each case. The pattern, fuelled by imitative, impersonating desire, and thus responsible for somewhat deviant forms of mirroring and emulation between the rivals, the holders of power and those oppressed, could also be linked to the sinister mimesis which, as the controversial abuser/abused hypothesis holds, seems to define desire in the case of everyday abuse in which the victim, we are told, compulsively imitates the offender.

This apparent continuity barely means, incidentally, that there has been no difference, no change, between any two successive phases in the flow, such as the single-party republicanism up to 1950 and the liberal populism that immediately followed, or the pluralist neo-republicanism from 1961 and the later Islamo-nationalist or Islamo-nativist (Millî Görüş)54 populism under the AKP. A striking instance, exemplifying change, is the protracted Kurdish issue. In the early 1990s, about a decade before the AKP came into power, it was clearly out of the question for the public authority to acknowledge even the mere presence of the Kurds in Turkey. Memorably, during the Gulf War in 1991, when Iraqi Kurdish refugees amassed on the border, Turkish news outlets were stuck for a term to describe the ethnicity of the refugees, eventually opting for the then little-known Kurdish word for guerrilla, peshmerga. In the grip of a paradigm that ignored Kurds not only in the country but amazingly also abroad, this was an effort on the part of media, under considerable strain, towards being able just to report the plight of over a million civilians, mostly women and children. Yet, within a short time, this threshold would (p.31) be left behind, and some of the highest-ranking officials in the public authority, chiefly the then president Turgut Özal, would concede the long-denied Kurdish identity. The same authority would be observed from 2012 to hold direct talks with the leadership of the armed wing of the Kurdish political movement towards a permanent settlement of the issue. Again, the ban on the hijab in education and in public employment, particularly tightened through a neo-republican adjustment in February 1997, would come to be significantly loosened under the subsequent regime. Arguably more important in this regard would be the recasting of centre-periphery relations as a long-standing paradigm of political cosmology in the country, which I discuss in the next chapter. The liberal intellectuals who passionately supported the AKP government for being the sole available agent of change would be surprised to find out from 2011 that, although the paradigm seemed to have greatly disappeared under the present regime, this huge variation from the old order had little impact on the deeper current of authoritarianism, which was still intact.

Here, then, is the rule that governs change under unrelenting and grim recurrence induced by rivalry based on mimetic desire: there will be myriad forms of renewal and restyling under the incoming regime, no doubt; yet the new regime will be ‘offbeat’ only to the extent to which the departures and differences thus introduced will somehow allow us to recognise the old in the new. The ‘old’ in this sense refers to no transcendental signified, no fixed essence, which would be an undeviating and common thread running through the otherwise conflicting uses of political power. It is rather a dynamic and non-essentialising continuity that is perhaps best communicated in Wittgenstein’s useful concept of family resemblance.55 As in a family formed by blood connections, not a single trait in all, but various characteristics that notably differ between the family members will serve as sites of possible triangulation, linking distinct instances to each other, such as the CUP proto-nationalism, with lethal use of the myths ‘the nation’ and ‘the patria’, and the Islamo-nationalism of the AKP from 2011, within which those notions remained resilient. The family resemblance at issue takes on board the fact that the later regime hardly repeated or slavishly reproduced the CUP oligarchy, known to have ruthlessly ‘purified’ the emerging nation in the blood of hundreds of thousands of victims. On the contrary, the AKP (p.32) regime would come closest ever to admitting the systematic slaughter of Armenians under the CUP rule in 1915.

A highly relevant question in this context is whether it is at all possible to disrupt the cycle that somehow attached the AKP to the CUP a century earlier, the way, perhaps, as suggested in the hypothesised abuser-abused pattern, where a reversal is known to be feasible. More specifically, how do you move from a regime like Nazism in Germany to a subsequent European democracy that seems to be in clear contrast? Where exactly does the ‘vampire theory’ of interminable recurrence come in, when we do observe what seems to be a clean break with the past? Sadly, some such optimistic break may not be a possibility. The transition between the two apparently discontinuous regimes such as Nazism and contemporary European democracy is arguably enabled, once again, by violence and scapegoating; in this case, the violence of World War II and the Cold War. Moreover, the new regime that mystifies itself through a new sacred of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, thereby manufacturing vital credulity towards its violent order much more readily than before, may be argued in effect simply to reproduce the old one at some other level that is not immediately recognisable. This ‘new’ level of violence may involve not only such unmistakeably violent practices as immigration laws and financial and commercial drifts that exact blood and dispossession in more inventive and pragmatic ways than before, but also somewhat eerier practices such as governmentality and biopolitics in the Foucaldian sense, which I invoke in this book in claiming a basic continuity between a markedly authoritarian regime such as that in Syria before the civil war and the ‘humane’ modern democracies.

Yet, there can be another answer to this question of breaking free, not of violence obviously, which is perennial, but of at least the specific cycle. A capacity for this kind of break, which was perhaps the case in post-World War II Germany, may perhaps be facilitated by possible epistemic fallouts in the specific context, inhibiting or obstructing imitation. A sharp discontinuity in communal knowledge may disrupt and blunt the attraction towards the desire of the other, prompting the desiring subject to recoil from reiterating the rival. Or it may transform the rival (that is, the model) from the ‘authentic’ one, in this case the Nazis, to some other model that will start mediating the desire anew in the place of the authentic model. In other words, a ‘drastic’ (p.33) change may be conceivable if the focus of desire could somehow be diverted from the rival. Intercepting humdrum mimicry by somehow reducing the pull of the ‘original’ model may prevent recurrence, and the desiring subject may instead steer towards mimicking a tenable and fresh rival outside the circuit – a new model. This then would be a dramatic variation in the pattern. That the pattern outlined above is open to such novel mechanisms is evident in the argument, articulated by Girard, that a major discontinuity seems to have occurred between archaic and modern societies in generating credulity towards the order. This is regardless of the fact that the order is always already based on violence. The modern ‘demystification’ of the whole process of order, disabling lasting credulity, has ostensibly followed an epistemic suspension at some point. This interference, Girard claims, has brought about an unending cycle of violence rather than closing it with some finality through a stable new sacred. In the place of abiding order, the founding violence in ritual sacrifice now produces simply more violence. Although striving, as ever, for a mystification that strictly matches the mythic mystification in archaic societies, the new myths of democracy, the rule of law and an irreducible set of rights for all are fluid precisely for this reason, in response to the new and formidable flair for incredulity. Ironically, the ingenious new make-up thus accorded to the sacred in our time, presenting the reigning order as left wide open and capable of constantly revising itself, can be said only to intensify violence in other forms by rendering it smoother and more palatable for masses, rather than excluding or impeding it altogether.

A final question pertains to the assumed ‘universality’ of the pattern, on grounds that the human desire on which the pattern is based is universal. How is the pattern described here a ‘general’ one, since we do not appear to observe in, say, Norway or Australia, the political drama that has been unfolding in Turkey? The answer is that we should perhaps be careful not to confuse the pattern with a specific manifestation. Although the pattern could be general, the desire that is at the heart of the specific rivalry and violence is not; it is local. Therefore, the bulk of the stark variations between any two manifestations of the pattern, say, in Norway and in Turkey respectively, are attributable arguably to the variations in desire that is tied firmly to a unique setting. In other words, the pattern may indicate a horizontal continuity regardless of the location, with the desire ensuring the vertical and temporal (p.34) continuity in one specific location: all is the same, yet each at once remaining unique and different. Still, this explanation may not be sufficient to account for dramatic differentiations out there and seal the issue conclusively. We do know, however, that the pattern is open to revisionist inputs through epistemic dissimilitude, enabling radical changes. It may be the case that some of the striking divergences or fluctuations in the pattern that we observe out there may point in the direction of novel factors arising in different settings, which need to be carefully researched and elaborated on.

Synopsis of the Book

The book is divided into two parts. Part I provides a description of the process leading to the regime change from late 2002, with the sudden ascendancy of the AKP in domestic politics. Chapter 1 details the ‘institutional’ change that took place between 2007 and 2011, signalling a historic shift in the use of power in the country, long controlled by a staunch and virtually autonomous bureaucracy, both military and civilian, in the face of fragile democratic politics. The discussion focuses on the discourse of Europeanisation, though not in the strict sense used in the context of the European Union, as a unique leverage used by the AKP in bringing about the change. Originally part and parcel of the identity politics of the bureaucracy from the nineteenth century, this long-standing discourse also known as ‘Westernisation’ (Batılılaşma) was deftly appropriated by forces defiant of the bureaucratic rule to reconfigure access to power. Following this basic account of the change, Chapter 2 pulls back the timeline slightly and recounts the fascinating realignment in domestic politics with the rise of the AKP into power. The discussion underlines an ostensible transformation in the largely essentialising forms of identity politics that until then defined much of the political cosmology in the country. The usual cast of identity politics that relied on a rather cynical exploitation of identity demands seemed significantly to recede in the spell between 2002 and 2007 in favour of a set of civic, non-divisive political gestures around the reintroduced identity goal of Europeanisation. This remodelling would expand the electoral compass of the ruling AKP beyond the former identity alignments, ensuring widening reach, and, equally important, prompt ambivalence in the bureaucracy, considerably breaking the resistance in the way of change. Chapter 3 focuses on the extensive legal probes and subsequent (p.35) trials from 2007 in response to alleged attempts towards a military takeover. Accelerated during the regime change, the investigations and trials would be uniquely instrumental in silencing the opposition, formal or popular, in resistance to the recasting of power. The chapter chronicles the legal cases that would continue in full throttle until late 2013, with a number of surprise twists to follow, ultimately almost fully aborting the whole process. The last chapter in this part, Chapter 4, is about the stamina of resistance to the change, not only in this specific setting but also in the greater region in the immediate vicinity. The argument is that treating, as was habitually done, the draconian and unyielding regimes in the region as deviations, or as vestiges of past and native authoritarianisms, lacked insights into the ostensible strength of the regimes. A characteristically ‘modern’ rationality, the argument suggests, was clearly implicit in the project of forced and ambitious emancipation of the masses that largely defined the despotisms in the region. Motivated by a drive to save the locals ‘from themselves’, such manifestations of authority were de facto supported by forces, both domestic and international, that perceived the regimes as enforcers of modernity in the face of traditional identities and practices. Functioning as a perverse ‘liberation theology’ for promising agency and deliverance from the tutelage of the local, this ideology not only manufactured a crucial element of consent in respective domestic societies but also brought together strands of global neo-conservative thinking, all possibly motivated by a normative commitment to modernity, ultimately in favour of those authoritarianisms.

In Part II, the book depicts politics and rights under the AKP rule from 2011, with some remarkable mimetic continuity with the old regime increasingly in place. Chapter 5 covers the overall domestic context and the main contours of the Islamo-nationalist populism now in full swing. The discussion looks into the mood in pro-government circles, with some emphasis on Islamist speculations on democracy – terrifying to the secular masses – and the effective rule by policy, rather than law, enabled by the growing cult of Erdoğan. One centrifugal factor detected in portraying the setting is the formal commitment to the human rights protection system in Europe, which, paradoxically, acquired greater intensity during the regime change in a desperate attempt on the part of the government to bypass the former centres of power, namely the bureaucracy. Chapter 6 is about the historic Gezi Park (p.36) protests in the summer of 2013, which promised a novel fusion of otherwise disparate political forces, comparable perhaps to the broad democratic alliance led by the Islamo-nationalist politics from the late 1990s, enduringly bringing together a colourful variety of political forces, initially in opposition to an urban development plan in Istanbul. The somewhat harsh response by the government to the protests, which would do much to damage the reputation of the administration before international public opinion within only a span of days, is illustrated in this chapter through the plight of three protesters – a young man battered within an inch of his life by law enforcement officers, a young woman persecuted by the judiciary beyond the limits of credibility, and a child murdered during the protests. The state of the national media, curbed in independence far exceeding the typical manifestations of media capture, to be allegedly re-engineered and taken over by the government from 2007 through moot uses of public authority and public resources, is narrated in Chapter 7. This chapter also looks into the increasing government control of Internet access. Chapter 8 is on a set of rather dubious practices by the government in securing success at the ballot box, including the way in which it allegedly financed politics, arguably transforming democratic pretensions of the administration into a sham. The chapter includes a section on the role of the military in the new phase, with an assessment of its possibly resilient reflexes. Chapter 9 illustrates the government policies in a host of long outstanding issue areas, mostly predating the AKP rule, such as the tension between piety and secularism, especially in exercises of free speech, the basic Alevi rights, gross impunity of the security forces in the name of tackling the Kurdish insurgence, and the debate on the ghastly fate of the Ottoman Armenians. The chapter also comments on the purported government complicity in the jihadist bloodbath in the greater region following the Arab Spring. Finally, Chapter 10 focuses on some routine malfeasances in society, mostly ignored, if not necessarily exacerbated, by an exceptionally strong administration with an unusually lengthy mandate. The chapter presents a catalogue of some of the most pressing causes for concern in this regard, detailing, where available, the government initiatives and actions in respective areas: femicide, violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex individuals, especially transgender women, the ordeal of sex workers, dying prisoners, the astonishing toll of workplace mortality, and, last but (p.37) by no means least, the defacing of urban space in gargantuan proportions through a construction craze in the wake of the old regime. Endeavouring to make sense of the highly disputed function of urban construction works for the government, the chapter also includes an evaluation of the state of the economy under the AKP rule, which appeared to have failed to modify the economy structurally, relying merely on various palliative and crisis-ridden schemes. The concluding chapter muses generally on the regime change, its potentialities as well as perils, giving thought in the light of the foregoing to a genuine and lasting idea of change against the ostensibly uninterrupted flow of desire. (p.38)


(1.) These traits of basic authoritarianism come from the seminal piece by Juan J. Linz, ‘An Authoritarian Regime: The Case of Spain’, in E. Allardt and Y. Littunen (eds), Cleavages, Ideologies, and Party Systems: Contributions to Comparative Political Sociology (Helsinki: Transactions of the Westermarck Society, 1964), p. 297.

(2.) René Girard, Violence and the Sacred, trans. P. Gregory (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977), p. 185.

(3.) Alexandre Kojève, Introduction to the Reading of Hegel: Lectures on the Phenomenology of Spirit, assembled by R. Queneau, ed. A. Bloom, trans. J. H. Nichols, Jr (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1969), p. 6.

(4.) Jacques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis: Seminars Book XI, ed. J.-A. Miller, trans. A. Sheridan (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1978), p. 235.

(5.) Jacques Lacan, ‘Some Reflections on the Ego’ [1951], The International Journal of Psychoanalysis (Vol. 34, No. 1, 1953), p. 12.

(7.) Ibid., p. 146.

(8.) Ibid., p. 146.

(9.) Ibid., pp. 56–9.

(10.) Ibid., p. 146.

(11.) Ibid., p. 80.

(13.) Ibid., p. 82.

(14.) Ibid., p. 7.

(15.) Ibid., p. 24.

(16.) Ibid., p. 14.

(17.) Ibid., p. 23.

(18.) René Girard, The Scapegoat, trans. Y. Freccero (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), p. 22, emphasis added.

(19.) Ibid., p. 22.

(21.) Ibid., p. 165. Girard adds, however, that this demystification of the archaic tradition was hardly realistic; by taking away from the community an instrument through which it vented its confusion, Christianity would become powerless in the face of mimetic instability.

(22.) René Girard, Battling to the End: Conversations with Benoît Chantre, trans. M. Baker (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2009).

(23.) Özgür Korkmaz, ‘Prime Minister Erdoğan Discriminates, and It Works for Him’, Hürriyet Daily News, 7 August 2014.

(25.) Pınar Tremblay, ‘AKP Advice to Soma: Don’t Protest, Just Pray’, Al-Monitor online news portal, 19 May 2004.

(27.) Haymi Behar, ‘How Does It Feel to Be “Israeli Spawn” in Turkey’, Hürriyet Daily News, 19 May 2014.

(28.) ‘Türkiye’nin Yönetim Sistemi Fiilen Değişmiştir [Turkey’s Administrative System De Facto Changed]’, Hürriyet, 15 August 2015.

(29.) Rasim Özdenören, ‘Yeni Bir Türkiye Doğuyor [A New Turkey is Emerging]’, Yeni Şafak, 26 August 2014.

(30.) See this newspaper column by an intellectual who served as chief adviser to Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu for a spell from October 2014, Etyen Mahçupyan, ‘Erdoğan’ın Zihniyeti [Erdoğan’s Mentality]’, Akşam, 12 February 2015.

(31.) On this, the classic work is Niyazi Berkes, The Development of Secularism in Turkey (London: C. Hurst & Co, 1998). See also, among others, M. Şükrü Hanioğlu, A Brief History of the Late Ottoman Empire (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008); Erik J. Zürcher, Turkey: A Modern History (London: I. B. Tauris, 2004); and Feroz Ahmad, The Making of Modern Turkey (London: Routledge, 1993).

(p.343) (32.) See Kemal H. Karpat, Ottoman Population, 1830–1914: Demographic and Social Characteristics (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985).

(33.) The authoritative work on the intellectual world of the Young Ottomans is Şerif Mardin, The Genesis of Young Ottoman Thought: A Study in the Modernization of Turkish Political Ideas (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1962).

(34.) Enver Ziya Karal, Osmanlı Tarihi [Ottoman History], vol. VII (Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 1956/2003), p. 313. The definitive work of history on the Young Ottomans and the later offshoots is M. Şükrü Hanioğlu, The Young Turks in Opposition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995).

(36.) Ibid., p. 367.

(37.) Enver Ziya Karal, Osmanlı Tarihi [Ottoman History], vol. VIII (Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 1962/2000), p. 413.

(38.) ‘31 March’ in the Rûmî calendar, used roughly from mid-nineteenth century in Ottoman Turkey. This calendar started with the Hijra (622 ad) and yet used the solar (Julian) rather than the lunar calculation. Hence, the reference generally made to this brief turmoil in 1909 as the ‘31 March Rebellion’.

(39.) Enver Ziya Karal, Osmanlı Tarihi [Ottoman History], vol. IX (Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 1999), p. 75.

(40.) Ibid., pp. 104, 112–14. This was claimed in a legal opinion (fatwa) used for the purpose.

(41.) Ibid., pp. 114–17.

(42.) Ibid., p. 120.

(44.) Mete Tunçay, Türkiye Cumhuriyeti’nde Tek Parti Yönetimi’nin Kurulması, 1923–1931 [The Establishment of the Single-Party Regime in the Republic of Turkey, 1923–1931] (Ankara: Yurt, 1981), pp. 27–60.

(45.) Ergün Baybars, İstiklâl Mahkemeleri [Independence Tribunals] (Ankara: Ministry of Culture and Education, 1982), p. 413.

(46.) Feroz Ahmad, The Turkish Experiment in Democracy, 1950–1975 (London: C. Hurst & Co., 1977), pp. 9–10.

(47.) Ibid., pp. 48–9.

(49.) William Hale, Turkish Politics and the Military (London: Routledge, 1994), pp. 111–13.

(50.) The deportation of those Greeks who formally had Greek nationality, although most never having been to Greece, was decided on 16 March 1964.

(p.344) (51.) This was a news report in the daily Hürriyet on 7 April 1964: ‘Eski Bir Ermeni Köyünde Herkes Müslüman Oldu [Old Armenian Village Becomes Muslim with All Its Inhabitants].’ The spiritual leader of the village of Acar in Sason, Batman, was reported to have stated: ‘No longer convinced by the Christian doctrines, we have long been meaning to convert.’ That is, little had changed for the religious minorities since the nineteenth century, when whole Christian villages had converted just to be safe from the wrath of the public authority.

(52.) Another significant measure towards overseeing democratic politics, a bicameral legislature, created in the Constitution of 1961, would last only until 1982, when a new Constitution, ending it, would be put into force as the country resumed democracy in the aftermath of the military junta of 1980.

(53.) ‘Republicanism’ seems to be an apt term to identify the break formed with the founding of modern Turkey, not only because the ideology of ‘the Republic’ became prominent in Turkish political culture from the late 1990s, with many describing themselves as republican, but also because the ideology at issue appeared to be related to the French republicanism in its radical approach to the public functions of religion. In this book I use the term to refer to political sensibilities often referred to as Kemalism.

(54.) ‘Islamo-nationalism’ here refers to Islamist politics centred on the old Turkish notion of millet, namely ethnic identity merged with religion. The notion was at the heart of the term Millî Görüş, the local Islamist politics out of which the AKP emerged. The term at once communicated a ‘nativist’ populism, to be sure. Still, the usual translation of Millî Görüş as ‘National View’ arguably fails to do justice to the original. In this book I employ the term Islamo-nationalism for Millî Görüş as a sub-category of overall Islamism.

(55.) Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, trans. G. E. M. Anscombe (Oxford: Blackwell, 1953/1988), paras 65–7.