Sunday, July 06, 2008

Turkey crisis: Hopes of democracy are hanging in the balance

From the Observer

It is too soon to know how the battle between the AKP and the secular establishment will play itself out, but, while we wait, spare a thought for Turkey's beleaguered democrats.

They include the scholars who have questioned the very foundations of official history, the lawyers who have challenged its infamous penal code, the writers, journalists, translators and publishers who have refused to be intimidated by that code, the nationwide alliances of feminist and human rights activists, and the musicians and memoirists who defy official ideology by celebrating their multicultural roots.

I could go on. These are loose-knit networks: though many go back several decades, it was when EU accession began to look like a real possibility, in the mid to late 1990s, that they came into their own. What they saw in the EU bid was a chance for a bloodless revolution - a measured reform of its repressive state bureaucracies, a democratic resolution of the Kurdish problem, and an end to what polite political scientists call tutelary democracy.

In the Turkish context, they mean a democracy in which the army has the last word, involving itself in the day-to-day running of government and stepping in to shut it down whenever it deems it to have strayed from the righteous path.

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