The Turkish original of this article was published as ‘AK Parti ve kendi küçük hikâyem- 1’ on 11th June 2015. Part 2 followed a week later (on 18th June 2015).
My father had been a nationalist ever since the days of the Cumhuriyetçi Köylü Millet Partisi [Republican National Peasant Party], but it was really his faith and worship that was preponderant. Under the Republic our identity and spiritual values had been trampled on, and Turkishness had been disembodied, he would argue. With the alphabet reform we had become disconnected from the past, and the further addition of the “pure Turkish” movement had caused such linguistic impoverishment as to make it impossible for us to elucidate what we really meant. Flooded by what passed for books in the name of simplification, young people had become incapable of understanding Peyami Safa or Refik Halid Karay, not to speak of Yahya Kemal. Fathers and sons now disagreed not so much because of a generational as a linguistic gap.
By chance, my great uncle had met Bediüzzaman [the Ornament of the Age – tr. note] Said Nursi, and had completely changed his lifestyle by dedicating himself to piety and asceticism. I remember all the impact this had on our family. Later, my uncle's older daughter, whom we used to call our aunt, married into a family that had been CHP supporters virtually from the beginning of time. Even as children, our cousins had pictures taken first with İsmet İnönü and later with Bülent Ecevit.
My mother liked neither Alpaslan Türkeş nor Ecevit on the grounds that they were setting young people against each other, so she used to vote for Demirel. Later, she and my father came together in Turgut Özal’s Anavatan [Motherland] Party in their belief that it was unifying all tendencies and bringing freedom to the market. When the entire family got together, there used to be heated political debates, sometimes with people getting up to speak in their excitement, after which we would eat together and have tea. Such visits would end with hugs and warm goodbyes, amidst jokes, sarcastic comments, and pleas for God to put some sense in each other's minds.
One day, my younger uncle who was studying engineering in Germany showed up with his German friends who had converted to Islam, and after a long effort at persuasion they went back to Hamburg taking my older brother, then nine, with them. In return, the family's eight-year old daughter Angelika stayed with us for a year. The idea was for both to become familiar with other cultures and languages. This almost albino-blonde German girl with whom I lived and shared the same room for a year did away with my notions of "foreign"ness. After all, what difference could there be between children who cried when they missed their mothers, or whose knees bled when they fell? Later, we were next-door neighbors for ten years with a bride from Vienna who had moved here after marrying a Turkish academic. We always showed the greatest courtesy, delicacy, and care for each other's culture and beliefs. They used to leave their house key with us, for their children who would be arriving from school.
Until my university years, I never doubted that the Kurds were a Turkic tribe. There were even many Kurdish youths within the national-idealist [ülkücü] movement. Later on, some of these ülkücü young people who were rounded up by the 12th September 1980 coup started to read and think more calmly in prison, and when they came out they started publishing the periodical Yeryüzü [The Earth], where I was first exposed to the reality of Kurdishness through titles and articles that were almost ahead of present times.
The DGM [State Security Court] would press charges against every issue, which would be summarily collected and confiscated. For those in the know, it was a legendary magazine.
During our second year at the university, I and a few friends decided to cover our heads, which makes for a long story, but it was only then that I experienced truly painful exclusion and otherization. We had committed a mortal crime, it seems. There is not enough space to describe what we had to go through. Let me only say that in the end, I had to leave Ankara in 1990, moving from where I had been born and grown up to Istanbul. I no longer felt safe for my life in my Kavaklıdere pharmacy; such were the threats and menaces.
The coup had struck hard and left everyone reeling, including rightists, leftists or the Kurdish people. Human rights had hit rock bottom. Some Muslims were coming together at our house to take part in discussions over founding Mazlum-Der; they wanted to develop an ethics of rights that would not take the oppressed to task over their identity. This was the quintessential truth that emerged from the verses of the Koran and the life of our prophet.
When the Bosnian war erupted in 1992, we tried to support our friends who were mobilizing to end the war and to provide relief. Chechnya, Afghanistan, Palestine were all drenched in blood, and as believers concerned for all these we did not fully grasp what was happening within the country, for example in Diyarbakır prison. In the process that led to 28th February, everyone had been straitjacketed into this or that identity, thus rendered incapable of seeing or hearing the others. On the one hand it took courage even to say that one was Kurdish or to sing in one's native tongue. Simultaneously, women with headscarves were being excluded from almost everything other than walking in the street; their most fundamental rights were being trampled on with impunity.
11 September 2001 was the trauma of the American people. Pious people, including the Kurds, had felt pain and sorrow as they watched Leyla Zana's forceful removal from the National Assembly in 1991, but had failed to fully grasp the gravity of the situation. The biggest trauma in recent history for Turkey's believers was when Merve Kavakçı was kicked out of parliament. They could really identify with her and she became a role model for their daughters. Death does not occur solely through bloody attacks. What happened to Merve Kavakçı was a deliberate attempt at first-degree murder against the very existence of Muslims. We watched so glued to the screen as to be incapable of thinking of protecting the kids from a pornography of violence those under eighteen should not be exposed to. A whole generation grew up with this powerful image that excluded, humiliated, condemned and targeted them and their parents.
Of course it was with great enthusiasm that we welcomed the founding of the AKP in 2001. It promised to be a bulwark against bans, coups, and rights violations, which is what brought it to sole power in the very first elections that it contested (3rd November 2002). In his balcony speech following the 2011 elections where every other person voted for the AKP, Prime Minister Erdoğan faced the public as a leader who had largely realized his promises.
The dark clouds over the headscarf had started to dissipate with the change in outlook. The denialism and assimilation directed at the existence, the identity and the language of the Kurdish people had also been considerably eroded. Several "opening" initiatives were launched to embracing all sections of society. The resulting sense of goodness or betterment owed much to the many civil society initiatives and NGOs that mobilized around the human commonality of differents.
Aliya İzzetbegovic once spoke of a peaceful, emancipatory, justice-seeking moral force as the greatest force on earth. This is what was also reflected in Prime Minister Erdoğan's balcony speech:
“The winner has been Turkey, democracy, and brotherhood. Today is not a day for reckoning but a day for reconciliation. If we have brothers or sisters whom we have hurt or whose hearts we have unintentionally broken during the election campaign, I ask all of them for forgiveness, first and foremost in my name and in the name of all my brothers and sisters.”It was an unforgettable round of applause that greeted these sentences.
The Prime Minister went on to apologize, in the name of the state, for the Dersim massacre, and he also issued mature and finely poised messages offering to share what the Armenian people suffered during their forced resettlement, and conveying his condolences to their grandchildren. These were all acts that were unseen or unheard of in the previous history of the Republic.
Predictably, all these opening initiatives and solution processes met with obstacles and efforts at blockage. There were attempts to bully and intimidate the AKP by hinting at the political price to be eventually paid or bringing charges to have the party banned by the Constitutional Court. Yet, those who adhere to strong moral principles or permanently enduring human values are always bound to win in the long run.
At present the AKP has once more won the greatest number of votes to come out yet again as the first party in the country. In sheer quantitative terms, it has no close rivals. It remains the primary protagonist of the Solution Process. In a certain sense, whether falling or rising it is competing only against itself. It has no immediate alternatives — but neither is ending up without the absolute majority a loss to underestimate.
At the outset, their policies were in line with my own experience since childhood of living side by side with all our differences. For various reasons this political outlook received one blow after another, while simultaneously another process developed deep inside whereby AKP people gradually came to value their personal interests over their ideals.
The participatory policies that involved lending an ear to anyone and everyone began to give way to an attitude of seeking to suppress even friendly critiques by appealing to an "indomitable will."
[To be continued]