The Turkish government is experiencing turmoil and conflict as it awaits news from the Constitutional Court as to its decision of banning or not banning the ruling Justice and Development Party(AKP) as a legal political organization. The Court is reviewing a case brought by the Public Prosecutor who charges the AKP with seeking to undermine the Turkish constitution by working to end its secular base and institute a Muslim centered society which will govern on the basis of sharia law. In recent days, ultra nationalist leaders have urged Prime Minister Recep Erdogan, to stand down from politics if his party is banned in order to avoid further conflict in society. In parliamentary debate, Erdogan disregarded the request, and stated bluntly, “if a politician decides to stand down from politics, it will be due to the will of the people,” not because of a judicial decision.
Deniz Baykal, of the opposition Republican People’s Party, argued Turkey is fast approaching a decision if the Constitutional Court decides to ban the AKP. “Will Turkey remain a modern nation or become a weird Islamic state of the Middle East?”
However, there is a third option which Erdogan and many members of the AKP are urging– creation of a modern nation which respects the rights of its religious members while also respecting the rights of those who believe in secular principles. If this third path is taken, it offers a model for the entire Middle East.
The Turkish Constitutional Court is currently deliberating over charges brought by the Public Prosecutor who believes the ruling Justice and Development Party(AKP) intends to end the secular nature of the nation and institute a Muslim sharia law mentality. At this critical time in the history of his nation, Dengir Mir Mehmet Firat, deputy leader of the AKP decides to give an interview to the New York Times in which he attacks the revolutionary goals of Ataturk, who created the modern Turkish nation as one founded on secular values. Naturally, M. Firat is backtracking and claiming he was misunderstood, but his words have allowed critics to claim the deputy leader was merely revealing to the world, the true nature of the Justice and Development Party to end secularism.
Perhaps, Mr.Firat was misunderstood, but it also reflects a weakness of the AKP which has failed to clearly articulate its goals in such a manner as to reassure secular leaders in Turkey there is no intention to impose religious law. Leaders of the opposition Republican People’s Party and the Democratic Left Party have used his words to challenge the stated goals of the AKP.
An unknown factor is the reaction of Turkish military leaders to these words.
The people of Turkey are gearing up for radical changes in their political structure if the Constitutional Court decides to close down the Justice and Development Party(AKP) on grounds it has violated the constitution by emphasizing changes such as allowing females to wear the headscarf in universities. The Constitutional Court and high ranking military leaders remain the bastion behind guarding secular rights in their country. If the AKP is termed an illegal political organization then the Turkish political configuration must be altered. There are rumors, Abdullah Sener, one of the five founders of the Justice and Development Party is considering the possibility of creating a new center-right political party which will cooperate with secular leaders in forging a new coalition which can bring together both secular and religious leaders.
Speaking from the outside of Turkey, one notes legitimate concerns on the part of both religious and secular minded Turks. Perhaps, a mistake made by the AKP in ending the headscarf ban was failing to make clear it only dealt with the headscarf and was not the initial step in the imposition of sharia law ideas upon the population. Fears are not always based on reality, but if fears persist they must be addressed.
The current Turkish government led by President Gul and Prime Minister Erdogan of the Justice and Development Party(AKP) received support from the Council of Europe which regards the current court case aimed at closing down political parties to be ill advised. The key issue for the Council of Europe is the presence of any evidence the AKP is advocating violence or attempting to curtail the freedom of other political parties. No such evidence is apparent and the Council of Europe emphasized: “It is better to have political issues like these settled by ballots, and these issues discussed openly in Parliament and the media” rather than have a court decide which political party is legal or illegal.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe(PACE) urged Turkish courts to respect the rights of political parties and avoid closing them since such action impinged on the right of freedom of speech. The Turkish Constitutional Court is concerned about the emergence of a potential Islamic state which would suppress secular rights of its citizens. As of now, there is no evidence the AKP is moving in that direction and to assume it will move toward such ends risks undermining the basic right of free speech. One can be punished for what is done not what a judicial body believes may or may not be done.
Posted in Europe, Human Rights, Islam, Multicultural, Muslims, Peace, Politics, Turkey, World News
Tagged AKP, Constitutional Court, Council Europe