Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The love triangle: AKP, pro-Islamic press and Ahmadinejad

-Published in Hurriyet Daily News on June 30, 2009-
-Hurriyet Daily News'te, 30 Haziran 2009 Tarihinde Yayinlanmis Makalem-

Though you still never know which way events in Iran will turn, it seems after two weeks of protests the first chapter of "change" in Iran is nearing an end, as many analysts predicted. Nevertheless, as I wrote right after the events started in Iran, today's Iran is not the same as the Iran we knew just a few weeks ago.

Amid the latest row between Obama and Ahmadinejad, Obama's supposed period of better relationships with Iran seems to have taken a big hit, even before they actually started. Obama, in the first few days of Iranian events, seemed to resist calls to take a more hardliner stance on Ahmadinejad; instead he wanted to see how the situation in Iran would "play itself out". In that sense, Obama went a little too far in saying that there was not much difference between the main candidates of the elections, Ahmedinejad and Mousavi. Even if this is a true statement in essence, the equalization imprisoned within this statement seemed to diminish the protestors' brave uprising against the repressive regime. Obama only changed this mistaken tone last Friday to say Mousavi did indeed capture the hope and imagination of an opening up and might in fact be different from Ahmadinejad.

With Obama's new tougher line on the events in Iran, Ahmadinejad, the chance grabber, did not miss the opportunity to lash back at Obama in the hope of defusing tensions on the streets. There is no doubt that he also wishes to return to the old days of playing the role of enemy. Though this time Obama is just too smart to let that trap haunt him. Obama will continue to do more to reach out to Iran; because he knows that the other way benefits the opponents and more chaos, rather than his country and peace.During these turbulent days in Iran, Turkey played its hands according to a "strategically deep" scenario. In this scenario, the West, with the irregularities of the elections in Iran on top of everything, will start working to place tougher sanctions on Iran. In the meantime, this "strategic thinking" foresees that Turkey, as a last resort, will grasp the opening to play the mediator role between these two sides. As many know, Turkey has been longing for this role for sometime. The question is what happens if the West does opt for tougher sanctions on Iran? What would Turkey do in that case? In the past most gamblers would have bet on Turkey to safely ally itself with the traditional Western alliances. Though now, nobody is so sure. Turkey has been looking for alternatives for some time and what kind of an alternative Turkey will come up with at such time is a big question that nobody dares to gamble on.

Beside this diplomatic thriller scenario, it seems the Turkish leaders are pretty happy with what they are seeing in Iran. Davutoğlu explained the situation best when he said: "The emergence of very different interpretations of results after the election [should be taken] as a sign that the political process in Iran is very healthy." Let's repeat that again, Davutoğlu's reading, since there are two completely different interpretations for the election results, in which one claims the votes were rigged and the outcome was not the peoples' wish, and the other, the Islamic regime claims everything was just fine. So Mr. Davutoğlu concludes, according to these interpretations, we can securely say that the election process was healthy! Is this a joke?

On the other hand, the press reports that, the person known as "the butcher of the Press" in Iran, was appointed to investigate the Iranian protestors. Maybe this is another sign that we should take as to how healthy the after-elections process in Iran is! Because now with the special interrogating techniques in his tool box, Mr. Butcher will find the real provokers to confess that indeed this uprising was planned by outsiders to bring a mischief in to their heavenly country. Iran's good-old confession tapes will top the charts again, as we see.

Another miserable fall out of Iran's election process in Turkey is to display the Islamic or pro-Islamic media's trouble with taking a stance when the ones that are deprived of their rights are not necessarily on their side. In other words, during this gloomy chapter of the Iranian people, the pro-Islamic Media of Turkey flunked the democracy test miserably amid not showing any mercy on people when the Islamic regime kept striking them. One of the very few outspoken writers of this media has been Mr. Andrew Finkel from Today's Zaman. By criticizing the Turkish officials as well as his own newspaper on how they reacted to what happened in Iran, he said: "I am not entirely sure that [Neda's] family shares this same high opinion [of Justice and Development Party, or AKP, officials]. It is one thing not to interfere. It is another to pretend to like what you see." The Turkish officials seemed from every angle that the occurrences in Iran suited their taste and did not bother them one little bit.

With this flunked democracy test, the Islamic media didn't seem to realize that they are also losing moral credibility on the issues of human rights that they always seem to be so sensible, especially because of the headscarf issues. Instead of calculating "what kind" of people were protesting in the streets of Iran and whether these people could be identified with those that have taken to the streets in the Republican rallies in Turkey, or jumping on the bandwagon of the AKP as they always do, many wished to see they were with the people who were looking for their human rights and fair elections.

The period of the elections in Iran has given many lessons about our country. It taught us that Turkey still has self-confidence issues. The fears that come from our own problems makes Turkey remember and go back to the old days. Until Turkey solves its own problems it cannot step up to the plate when it comes to the human rights issues. And the media that supports this administration has also real issues with the notion of democracy.

If not, the other possibility, which I hate to say, is the Turkish administration and the administration's media really liked what they saw in Iran. Maybe they think Iranian democracy is something they could fit into in many ways and live happily ever after.

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