Turkish Nationalists Have Hard Days Ahead

It has been proven that being a nationalist in a country in transition from a modernist national period to a post-national one is a hard burden to shoulder. This has been experienced in the Balkans as their post-war reconstruction practices repelled any nationalistic discourse and broke down all the core building blocks of the very existence of the nation in the region. Because of this, the nationalists were almost forcibly silenced, marginalized and even demonized.

Nevertheless, the deconstructive queries into the historically constructed and stabilized values, memories, narratives and identifications have been the indispensable consequence of the transformation. Thus, Turkey’s nationalists will face the same occasionally painful fate during this deconstruction and transition period.

Turkey’s transition from a bounded single-nation state to a plurally defined and multilaterally erected state will require the re-definition of historical events and personalities in the beginning. This will be followed by rewriting the national history. After this, the single-nation’s values, taboos and emblems will be brought up for discussion. In the political scene and from an ethno-political perspective, the ethnic representation will be dominant, which will pit Turkish nationalists against the former-silent ethnic representatives. The territory, for the sake of which Turkish nationalists are ready to forge swords and wage war, will be reinterpreted, hence the nationalist meaning attached to it will be renegotiated. Some of these courses have already begun taking place and others will follow soon. All these will consequently, officially, formally and admittedly defame the ancien régime — the regime that suppressed the ethnic and religious voice in the country and obstructed the development of fruitful inter-ethnic relations by political means.

The fate consisting of slandering the Turkish nationalists and the ancien régime is infuriating for the nationalists, and their responses may jeopardize the peaceful transition. The Kurdish urban vandalism during the ripening of the peace process between the state and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) gives some clue about the menace the nationalism may generate. Turkey also experienced similar ideological violent confrontations during the 1970s. Therefore, despite their belief of the necessity of reaching peace, it is highly likely that the peace process, finally started by the 2013 Nevruz celebrations, will bring about violent reactions because the Turkish nationalists will feel deeply humiliated and become aggressive.

  • Speaking on their ethnic origin through political means

The aggressions already began as soon as ethnic groups other than Kurds started speaking on their ethnic origin through political means. In this sense, for example, they fiercely reacted against the Albanian claim for ethnic representation in Parliament. The Albanian peace delegation’s visit to Diyarbakır and Mardin in mid-March was responded to by reminding them of the “Albanian malice” committed by Albanian Kara Hasan Tahsin Paşa, who surrendered Salonika to Greece in 1912. The Turkish nationalist Balkan migrant associations and Albanian migrants are now on the brink of conflict. Indeed, the recent fears in regards to the Kurdish issue and the tension this causes among the Turkish nationalists herald further acceleration of the confrontation.

Yet, the most serious reactions are expected during peace efforts as regards the Kurdish issue. This is because, while the Albanian calls for recognition only pose a threat in nationalist conceptions to the national unity in Turkey, the peace process officially started by Öcalan’s eirenicon offer only threatens the political grounds of Turkish nationalism in Turkey. Having left aside the nationalism side-effect of the peace process on Kurds, Turkish nationalism will be further silenced and marginalized. Hence the only way nationalists in Turkey can stay their course is to mobilize the masses to undermine and axe the peace building. The measures they will take may be harsh and even lead to violence. The Bursa meeting of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) on March 23 bears the traces of this.

The Turkish nationalists’ bearing of the heavy burden of a single-nation ideology currently fading from the political scene is an ordeal. Yet, the disentanglement of the national dogma and belief is an inevitable conclusion engendered by the transition from a modernist national state to a post-national state. By the same token, Öcalan’s irretrievable eirenicon offer requires balancing the imbalances and injustice the country has historically been built upon. Since this may drive the nationalists crazy, the transition should be done through an appeasement of Turkish nationalism together with not favoring Kurdish nationalism. In fact, if this would pacify Turkish nationalists, alternatively they might be marginalized in order to not allow their violent backlashes to obstruct the transition. They should not be allowed to occupy the moderate political zone.

As seen, this is a war the Turkish nationalists are doomed to lose and destined to suffer.

* The article first appeared at Today‘s Zaman.
** Hüsrev Tabak is the Deputy Director-General of CESRAN International.

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