How to win friends and influence people, the Turkish edition


Contrary to the impression you might get from reading The Daily Chrenk, I don’t at all dislike Turkey or the Turkish people. In fact I have a historical soft spot for the Country Previously Known As The Ottoman Empire. For all the hundreds of years that the Poles and the Turks spent fighting each – and yes, we won the last round it the away game at Vienna in 1683 – throughout the 123 years that Poland was subsequently erased from the map of Europe by Prussia, Russia and Austria, Turkey was the only power which refused to recognise the Partitions as a realpolitik fait accompli. Throughout the 19th century, whenever the Grand Vizier would be receiving the members of the diplomatic corp accredited to Istanbul – in an alphabetical order – an official would always call on the ambassador from Lachistan (which is how the Turks called Poland, after Lech, the legendary Slavic founder of the Polish state, brother of Czech and Rus) to step forward and present himself. After a melancholy pause to underline to the other ambassadors, including those of the partitioning powers, the absence, the official would turn to the Grand Vizier and announce: “The ambassador from Lachistan is sadly not available.” Thanks for that, guys.

What I do dislike, however, is much of the contemporary Turkish politics, including the growing trend towards Islamist authoritarianism. Thanks to the genius of Kemal Ataturk, for decades Turkey was one of the few Muslim more or less democracies, embracing both the Western modernity and the Western alliance. It was good while it lasted, and it has been becoming increasingly clear for the past 15 or so years that it wasn’t going to. The rise of the Justice and Development Party, the refusal to assist the coalition in removing Saddam in 2003, the growing influence of conservatives from the Anatolian hinterland at the expense of the Istanbul and Ankara cosmopolitans have all been signposts pointing in a new and worrying direction. The Islamist chill of Gul and Erodgan made us even forget that for all the appearances, even the modern half of Turkey has been quite anti-American not to mention anti-Jewish if you only scratched the elite surface and uncovered the raw middle classes.

It’s safe to say that with the recent diplomatic spat, the old dream of Turkey joining the European Union is now well and truly dead. Its proponents used to argue that the membership would make Turkey more European, its opponents used to worry that the membership would make Europe more Turkish. All that is now academic, as European and Asian tectonic plates continue to drift further apart:

Shot one:

Speaking in the central city of Eskişehir, Turkey’s president urged “his brothers and sisters in Europe” to begin a baby boom in their new countries. “Have not just three but five children,” he told his flag-waving audience.

“The place in which you are living and working is now your homeland and new motherland. Stake a claim to it. Open more businesses, enroll your children in better schools, make your family live in better neighborhoods, drive the best cars, live in the most beautiful houses”…

[Erodgan said] a booming Turkish population would be the best answer to the EU’s “vulgarism, antagonism, and injustice”.

Shot two:

“Many parties have received a similar share of votes. Seventeen percent, 20 percent, there are lots of parties like this, but they are all the same,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said at a rally in the southern city of Antalya.

“There is no difference between the mindsets of Geert Wilders and social democrats in the Netherlands. They all have the same mindset … That mindset is taking Europe to the cliff. Soon wars of religion may and will start in Europe.”

Shot three:

“If you want, we could open the way for 15,000 refugees that we don’t send each month and blow the mind” of Europe, [Turkey’s Interior Minister Suleyman] Soylu said in a speech late Thursday, quoted by the Anadolu news agency.

It seems that a Turkish delight is neither a sweet nor an euphemism for buggery but the undisguised joy of local Islamists finally being able to say to Europe what was always on their mind.