Friday, April 29, 2011
The fire of the Arab awakening is now catching up with the Syrian youth. The streets of Arab countries, following a long period of oppression, are continuing to vent their anger until they attain freedom or the cold kiss of death.
All the while, schools of realism or idealism; conspiracy theorists or balance of power advocates are getting tired of being unable to diagnose exactly what is taking place in the greater Middle East.
It is indeed a transition process that the region is going through, and like any other monumental transition period, it is impossible for others to predict what the end product will be.
I think the “Black Swan” analogy could be a good way to describe the current upheavals. Black Swan, a metaphor that encompasses the concept of the rare occurrence of an event, nevertheless shapes the history by its immense magnitude. According to Nassim Nicholas Taleb, who is the author of a book called “the Black Swan, the Impact of the Highly Improbable,” in 2007, such extreme outliers can also have positive and negative effects and one can take various precautions to increase its odds to effect positive impacts in the end.
Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, particularly in terms of its policy toward the Libyan uprising, appeared to be focusing on short-term gains and holding onto its valuable political and economic interests that were mostly created after long years of pro-active diplomacy. In other words, Turkey adapted a “head in the sand" approach as the most-recent status-quo power in the region, constantly remaining focused on its own lucrative investments due to its own powerful business lobby, and did not have a whole lot of reasons to be excited over a regime change.
Now it appears that Syria is also becoming the next significant case for Ankara. The Bashar al-Assad regime, day by day, proves to be incapable of reform; targeting its own people with bullets to kill, it is losing its legitimacy in the eyes of its own people and international community, rapidly.
Turkey, who has received a lot of criticism from the Arab pundits, regional experts and of course the Libyan opposition for its Libya policy, has a lot to prove in the Syrian case by putting every meaningful pressure on al-Assad.
The U.S. acting undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, David Cohen, concluded a visit this week to press Ankara to do more to isolate Iranian and Moammar Gadhafi; soon the discussions will restart, however, about the best way to isolate the al-Assad regime.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s proactive foreign policies were widely seen as a success in preceding years, i.e. in the old Arab world. Those policies were based mainly on Realpolitik while maximizing the usage of its soft power elements (economic and cultural) to increase Turkey's influence.
The problem now is that Turkey, having made significant progress to improve its ties with various leaders (most if not all dictators) in the Middle East in recent years, feels the heat again to make another immense transition to this time correspond with the Arab street. In reality, Erdoğan proved that he could do that skillfully during the Gaza War against Israel.
There is no question in anybody’s mind that Ankara has been courting a regional leadership role, and one of the tasks it zeroes to undertake advocacy of the Muslim world into the West. Alas, that advocacy job description has just changed fundamentally since the upheavals began. Now any leader candidate must demonstrate to the Arab youth, not Arab leaders, that it is in very much in the sync with their universal demands.
Turkey's main opposition party, Republican People Party, or CHP, has not been very instrumental when it comes to nudging the AKP to be more courageous supporting “seeming” underdogs in the Middle East. It is true that the general elections in Turkey will not be won over foreign policy arguments, but the CHP, which would like to present itself as a viable alternative, still has to reveal what future it imagines while we are before the mother of all revolutions in the region.
It is also time for Ankara to stop being delusional to think either Gadhafi or al-Assad can survive at the end of this transition. Instead, it is time for Ankara to create its own “positive black swan,” and align itself with those who want change, not cling to the status-quo.
When the future looks back on today to see which countries were there to support the big fight for freedom, the citizens of Turkey deserve to be recorded on the right side of the history.
Merve Kavakçı’s harsh remarks toward Erdoğan
Merve Kavakçı İslam, a Turkish politician who was elected as a Virtue Party deputy for Istanbul in 1999, was consequently prevented from taking her parliamentary oath because of her hijab, joined a discussion at the Seta-DC this week. Kavakçı offered her comments over Dilek Cindoğlu’s study, titled “headscarf ban and discrimination” in Turkey, which was sponsored by the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation, or TESEV.
According to the study, the ban is still very much alive and discriminating against headscarved women in the Turkish labor force, preventing them from getting hired or promoted often. The study also shows that those companies that work with various governmental and military bodies are particularly unwilling to hire women with headscarves.
Apart from the discussion, Kavakçı was also asked about her opinion over the AKP's candidate list. Kavakçı stated clearly that she was neither satisfied with the list nor the performance of the AKP as a whole in regard to advancing the cause of headscarved women.
Kavakçı also argued that the AKP was “getting something in return” while ignoring the demands of 69 percent of total women population who have headscarves.
What is it exactly that the AKP is getting in return, I pressed Kavakçı. She stated that “there is a new, novel, developing practicing Muslim bourgeoisie and some argue that it is [preferable] to let economically well-established practicing Muslim enterprises [succeed] at the expense of [of the headscarf issue].”
Kavakçı, even though was very clear and sharp while criticizing Erdoğan’s performance over the issue, made vague statements to imply that some well-established conservative and pious companies are being allowed to vie with the largest conglomerates in Turkey in return for forgetting the issues of headscarved women.
Why did Erdoğan really not put forward headscarved women on the candidate list? Is Kavakçı right?
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