BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
At first it was just a reference to governance in Hitler’s Germany as a positive example of the centralized presidential power Erdoğan seeks to establish in Turkey. It was reported in the New York Times and elsewhere.
It was easy to disregard as just another one of his outrageous, outlandish, and outsized remarks, especially in the context of his ever more authoritarian style of rule.
His underlings claimed the media had misrepresented the comments Erdoğan made… sound familiar in this time of American presidential primary elections?
But then a few other pieces starting coming falling into place, please bear with me as the puzzle comes together.
Russia has asserted that Turkey is planning to invade Syria. Lending credence to this is the fact that Turkey denied Russia the right to a flight over its territory that is guaranteed by treaty, which suggests Turkey is trying to hide something. Turkey has built up transportation infrastructure starting at the Syrian border which suggests preparation for mobilization of men and munitions.
Aside from its early (and likely ongoing) support from IS/Daesh types, one of the stories Ankara likes to tell about “why” it’s involved in Syria is that Turkmens, ethnic brethren, living in Syria are in danger. Now, the claim has morphed into a more immediate “threat” because of Russian-supported Syrian forces gradually retaking control over areas populated by Turkmens, near Turkey’s border. This progress, when completed, coupled with Kurdish control over the eastern half of the Syria-Turkey frontier, would mean Ankara could no longer maintain the flow of Saudi supported Moslem radicals into Syria, nor could it continue to supply them.
This Turkmen argument carries significant weight in Turkey. Members of the MHP, the most extreme nationalist parliamentary party in Turkey. MHP has seen some of its members killed in fighting, in Syria, with funerals attended by Turkish notables. MHP has its militant youth organization. Other such youth groups exist. All of this reeks of Pan-Turkism. And, since these movements could pose a threat to Erdoğan and his AKP, many are convinced that a group called “Ottoman hearths” is a creation of the AKP.
The nomenclature is very worrisome. The notion of “hearth” – “ocağ” – which appears in the names of these youth groups harks back to the “Turk ocaği” set up by Zia Gökalp (one of the Pan-Turkist ideologues) a century ago that provided the ideological breeding ground for the murderous elements of the Committee for Union and Progress (Talaat’s party).
Couple all this with the well-known drive by Erdoğan to recreate the Ottoman order in some form, and the picture starts to get clear. It even starts to reek of “Hitler Youth” structures in pre-WWII Germany. Is it possible that this brand of youth control was developed by the Pan Turkists, borrowed by the Nazis, and is now being borrowed back by Turks?
All this fits in with Erdoğan’s whipping up of chauvinist fervor against the Kurds, too.
Given his established penchant for political brinkmanship and willingness to use any means to maintain, expand, and deepen his power, it could be that Erdoğan is simply using any and all political tools, cynically, to achieve his ends. But, when Pan-Turkism, or any other such racist ideology is reengaged and reenergized, no one is safe. Armenians (and ever increasingly Kurds) know this.
It’s incumbent on us to start getting the word out on this to media and legislative circles. We have to convey the gravity of the situation and that it is not just Erdoğan playing with Islamic or nationalist fire, as usual. This can potentially spiral out of control in the deadliest ways, and destabilize not only Turkey, nor even just its immediate neighbors, but countries and regions all the way to China.
Get on the phone and computer and get to work getting the word out.