Thursday, March 4, 2010

Mission of the 2005 Almanac


Ümit Cizre•

The book you are holding in your hand happens to be the “first” Almanac ever to be published about the Security Sector in the history of the Republic. It is centered around the year 2005 and presents the reader with an account of the agencies within the Security Sector, their organizational features, declared and undeclared operational principles, activities, authority structures, legal framework they operate under, basic approaches they adopt, and the changes and bottlenecks they went through within the framework of full membership to the European Union which became a more realistic prospect since December 17, 2004. Essentially, this Almanac provides objective and reliable knowledge about Turkey’s security sector agencies in an analytical format to trigger interest and sensitivity on security, defense and strategy issues and agencies and help provide the background conditions for opening a public space for enlightened debate about these issues. Put it differently, the main concept of the Almanac is to enable the public to be informed about the vital issues and policies on threats, insecurity and security in order to help pave the way for a democratic political future we want to build.

In this Almanac, the four forces of the Armed Forces, namely Land, Air, Naval Forces and the Gendarmerie, the Police, the Coast Guard Command, Police and Gendarmerie Intelligence organizations, Special Operations Units, National Intelligence Organization, National Defense Council, security-related activities of Turkey’s Legislative and Executive branches, Military Judicial System, Village Guards, Private Security System, Civil Society-Security and Media-Security nexus are studied by experts based on objective data and in a dynamic and analytical framework in conjunction with current politics, history, international, political and strategic developments. A more detailed breakdown of the themes explored are as followsThe meaning and importance of the Almanac should first be explained through the research problematic it covers, namely, the “Security Sector.” This concept emerged as a result of two main security-related developments after the Cold War. 1994 Human Development Report published by the UNDP stated for the first time that insecurity, and therefore security, is not a process and requirement that can be met by military units carrying uniforms, weapons and hardware alone. The Report introduced the human security aspect that falls outside the scope of military considerations. Secondly, and relatedly, the need for interpreting “insecurity” and “security” in a broader sense started to arise.

Human security is a concept that transcends the “military”/ hard security of the “state” and links “insecurity” with lack of protection of the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of people. In other words, human security is now seen as the natural part of “democratic governance” in terms of a government’s commitment to protecting all citizens including those that are defined in the modern political vocabulary as “minorities” from poverty, deprivation, injustice, violence, unequal treatment and conflict; and restructuring security units with these new security concerns in mind. Effective reform of the security sector requires that the security forces which have the legitimate authority to use force as well as the civilian bodies that carry out democratic oversight over these bodies should come to an appreciation that human rights, not the state rights are at the core of security sector reform.

As a country which, in the 1990s waged a fierce war against “domestic threats” with a more and more militarized strategy and refrained from including the “elected bodies”, civil society and media organizations within the process of formulating security policies, Turkey was left out of these new global trends and changes of the post-Cold War times. The systematic “reinvention” of Cold War security concept in the last decade helped rebuild the status quo and (re)legitimize the armed forces as the “guardians” of the regime. The securitization of every aspect of life became the priority, and as a result, human rights, quality and standards of life, welfare, peace and security failed to take root to replace the political fears. In that decade, in other words, Turkey failed to embrace a security approach that prioritizes the protection of a dignified, honorable and rights-driven individual life and enhances an understanding of state which has built-in democratic reassurances against the abuse and misuse of the legitimate authority of the state security forces.

All of this painful past history is true. However, as the most important “sine qua non” condition of the EU membership project that is not yet completed, Turkey’s security sector agencies will have to shed their old heritage which is based on military power and logic while responding to new threats that stem from extraordinary international and domestic changes. It is therefore correct to say that this Almanac is published “on time,” and at the right juncture to capture fundamental changes in threats, security, defense, foreign policy and insecurity. It hopes to be able to cultivate an inquisitive culture capable of “objecting” to what it considers wrongdoings regarding these sensitive issues judged by the objective information they receive from reliable referents. This is how the traditional “obedience” culture that engulfs the security environment can be removed.

What do we understand from the reform of security units? What kind of changes can this Almanac trigger? Security sector reform stems from a redefinition of security in line with new developments in the world after the Cold War era ended and rests on two legs: the first is the improvement in the operational efficiency and effectiveness of the police, armed forces, gendarmerie and intelligence units – to be able to fight against brand new threats, crimes, organizations, weapons and violence under the new circumstances. But even in enhancing the technical capacity of the security units, it is important that there should be no overlapping authority and interagency competition within the sector. The chapters in this volume on the police and gendarmerie amply demonstrate the corrosive effects of a problematic division of functions within the sector.

The second leg of security sector reform is the promotion of democratic accountability mechanisms of the sector to elected and non-elected civilian bodies. Focusing merely on the physical modernization component without paying any attention to the “democratic governance” aspect of non-technical ideas and perceptions amounts to rehabilitating security institutions physically by isolating them from the changes and new trends in the concept of security, public philosophies, political power configurations, concept of democracy and the transformations in the material world. The important thing is to reform on both fronts simultaneously to build a security structure that is more professional and result-driven while establishing democratic oversight venues as part of a broader intellectual project. The idea is not to strengthen the security spectrum at all costs but to fortify it in a way that encompasses the modern democratic priorities simply because, in this day and age, this is the meaning of “security”.

What we need is help build a public that is sensitized to, critical of and engaged in the debate on the principles, approaches, and policies of the security bureaucracy and retains a “memory” of security. This Almanac represents an important beginning in this respect by adopting a unique writing perspective that blends objective information with an analytical viewpoint. Researchers, members of the parliament, bureaucrats, experts, think-tanks, interested citizens, journalists specializing in security, students who want to write dissertations, reports, term-papers, books and articles on the subject are the targeted readership that will keep the security memory alive. By combining the empirical world with the world of analytical thought and providing clear, objective and analytical knowledge, the Almanac helps to create the nucleus of the next chain of references.

Democratic Civilian Control

The Almanac has another very important mission in opening the “Pandora’s Box” that contains the spectrum of security organizations which were, until now, considered to be an area of curiosity for the expert professionals rather than the ordinary citizens: it intends to contribute to the establishment of a democratic civilian contro/oversight over the security spectrum based on two main contemporary values: accountability and transparency. These principles emerged as a result of the transformation of the conceptualization and policies of security environment in the Western hemisphere in the post-Cold War times and, in turn, reshaped the discourse of the practitioners. During the Cold War, the traditional security wisdom regarded public’s views on security matters shallow, uninformed and unreliable and considered security as an area to be roughly overseen by the parliaments and executive organs. But the changing global realities of the last 20 years introduced society-, community- and citizen-centered considerations in the implementation of reforms conditioned by freedom-welfare-security nexus. A new consciousness, awareness and sensitivity started to dominate public philosophies. As expressed by Professor Anthony Forster, we became more and more aware that the factors labeled as threats by social groups are constructed through discourse. This awareness has led to a weakening of state-protecting rationale of security while creating more inquisitive and highly sensitized publics on the question of “who protects whose security”.

There is now a higher appreciation that when the civilian sector, parliament and media play an effective role in the definition of threats and making of public policies on defense and security, i.e. when the transparency becomes real and the channels of accountability are open, huge defence and security expenditures hidden behind the curtain of secrecy, irregular/illegal practices, and the unnecessary violence and corruption on the part of the sector will become visible. As Professor Robin Luckham, another prominent researcher in the field of Security Sector indicates, the problem of “democratic oversight” is not the mere implementation of civilian control over military and non-military units, it is inculcating the tradition of democratic accountability in the sector to end the persistence of military policies behind the formalities of civilian democratic governments.

Almost all international organizations (such as the European Union, NATO, The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, United Nations Development Programme the European Council, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank) have discovered that countries that are militarized in an uncontrolled fashion and breach human security cause instability both domestically and on regional and global scale and interrupt their own economic development. To support the foreign policy targets and benefits of the West, these organizations put forward as preconditions the restructuring of the security sector for those that are going through a membership process or require financial aid and credit. The sine qua non of this restructuring process is the involvement of multiple civilian players in the sector whose sensibility, knowledge and interest in the sector are enhanced through access to activities and publications of civil societal groups like this Almanac.

The Almanac presents the analytical information it contains to a security consumer who it hopes will do a new reading: one essential element in this reading is to shift the focus of research concern from a narrow to a broader domain, i.e., from civil-military relations to security sector. The research area which is termed as “civil-military relations” lacks explanation power in contexts like Turkey where the equation is characterized by imbalance that favors the military. The term “relations” can only apply if the playing field for both parties is democratically defined and leveled. Therefore, it is much more productive to use the broader concept that covers both the military non-military agencies and their interactive relations. Even if we accept that Turkey’s armed forces continue to play a prominent role in external as well as domestic security, we should recognize that security sector reform as a more comprehensive concept will increasingly occupy Turkey’s future democratization agenda together with “civil-military problematic”.

Turkey, on one hand, has made a commitment to considerably reduce the political role of the military in non-military realms to comply with the full membership requirements of the European Union. It is also correct to claim that contemporary security problems of non-military nature - poverty and deprivation, infringements of freedom of expression, mass/forced migration, conflictive politics of ethnicity and religious identity, organized crime, human trafficking, abuse of women and children—can not be resolved by the application of traditional military values, skills and belief system. TESEV is determined to make every effort to publish the Security Sector Almanac every year to contribute in the direction of enhancing the effectiveness of civilian oversight.

The inevitability of civilian role expansion also creates an opportunity for the civilian political class to regain its self-confidence, problem-solving ability, and its capacity to influence the destiny of the society. The critical point to be stressed here is this: The predominant role the Armed Forces plays in politics is a streak that feeds the weakness of civilian politics that has gained a sticky status in Turkey, as well as aggravating the vulnerabilities of non-military security units, chiefly the police. Although not in the short-run, it is conceivable that empowerment of the civilian power centers can help cure the arteriosclerosis of the political class in the long run and boost its “political efficacy”.

Finally, the Almanac promotes a new dimension of the principle of democratic civilian control: it acknowledges that the connection between the military and the civilians, or between the units such as the police, JİTEM**, MİT** and the sector made up of civil society-ordinary citizens-media-members of the parliament is no longer a mere superior-subordinate, subject-ruler relations. On the contrary, the term security sector implies an equal and dynamic interaction between many civilian centers and the military and non-military units of the security sector. There is more in the term, therefore, than meets the eye: it indicates an egalitarian relations of power so that the self-confidence of civilian and security sectors are matched; their communication can no longer be characterized as “monologue”; their debates are carried out from within the same “grammer” and “vocabulary”; and their conflicts, rivalry and struggles give way to collaboration and harmony.

In conclusion, the Almanac wants to achieve an original target: to remove the shadow of secrecy over the security institutions, present information on the security spectrum to the society in an objective and reliable fashion, and to create and serve domestic or foreign consumers of this very specific information. This endeavour has direct impact on power relations as well as on democratization programme. It would be fitting to sum up the mission of the Almanac by adopting the famous “paradox” put by Professor Peter Feaver: We say yes to the security provided by the security bureaucracy if we are safe also against this spectrum.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Justice and Development Party and the Secular Establishment in Turkey



I. What Is New About the Justice and Development Party?

Turkey completed the 1990s with the slogan “the 21st Century Will Be the Turkish Century.” It made progress in many areas, not least of all coming to terms with global capitalism. But the same decade witnessed no less than 10 different coalition governments, all steeped in inefficiency and corruption; one military intervention in 1997 against a government led by a pro-Islamic party; steady decline of centre left and right; rise of radical nationalism and a spiral of economic crises the last of which in February 2001 brought the country to the brink of collapse. The series of coalition governments that came to power were drained of self-confidence and popular support. It seemed that the repeated criticisms and warnings of the military top brass about government excesses, misjudgements and corrupt practices accorded well with the reality of the 1990s.

The military and civilian protagonists of the 1997 intervention saw the roots of political problems in the “irresponsible” use of Islam for partisan purposes by the political class since the beginning of the multiparty period in 1946. Therefore, they attempted to marginalize the forces of political Islam by manipulating the technical rules of the game, disciplining representative institutions, strengthening the centre and implementing security-minded public policies. The establishment’s single-minded concern to secure the regime against potential threats originating from Islamism and Kurdish nationalism led to the closure of public debate on key issues and to the existing political class to subcontract the resolution of crucial problems to the civil-military bureaucracy. In sum, all political persuasions adopted a new rendition of the “politics of inertia” which can be defined as a kind of politics that was characterized by ‘the absence of political synergy or a credible parliamentary alternative, and the officials’ abject disregard for the concerns of those they represent.”

Against this domestic backdrop and at a juncture when Islamic terrorism is widely perceived as a major threat to transatlantic security, Turkey’s Islam-sensitive Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi—JDP), the offspring of a banned Islamist party, won the overwhelming majority seats in the parliament in the November 2002 general elections. The critical lesson the Justice and Development Party drew from the failed decade of the 1990s was “to change the status quo and demonstrate some performance” on the basis of two positions: Firstly, a discursive denial of its Islamist pedigree and the adoption of a moderate and non-religious discourse in its place, and secondly, securing Turkish inclusion into the EU not just as a reform strategy but also as a realistic acknowledgement of the historical roadmap of Turkey and as a way of transforming the domestic power balance. As a party of reformists splintered from the traditionalists in the Virtue Party (VP), the successor party of the Welfare Party (WP), the JDP, soon realized that repudiating the WP legacy was not a constraint on its chances of survival, but a prerequisite for renewal. It saw that the WP-led government had squandered power, resources, opportunities and hopes and had created disenchantment amongst the party faithful. The founders of the JDP wanted to establish a party that would refrain from employing a rhetorical discourse; that would not restrict its political horizon to Islamic issues only; that would pay special attention to pluralism by building a dialogue with non-Islamist sectors of the society; and that would be predictable, dynamic and open to change with no hidden agenda on critical issues. In this way, the trust of the people would be gained and a possible tension with the secular establishment could be managed.

With regard to its policy shift towards genuine reform, the policy of Europeanization gave the party three windows of opportunity: first of all, in the wake of the disenchantment that characterized the 1990s, the flagship project of EU accession introduced an energizing message for building a new Turkey from the bottom-up. Secondly, the leadership thought that the democratic changes that were encouraged by the EU preconditions would help reduce the establishment’s role in the system and also dramatically alter the political power balance that has sustained military’s political influence. The party was well aware that because of the military’s prominence in politics, civilian power wielders lacked the clout necessary to embark on a reform process. Instead, they constantly guarded themselves against the possibility of a military intervention by indulging in rent-gathering activities that elicited only short-term gains in their power base. By correcting the civil-military imbalance in favour of constitutionally elected organs, the democratic reform requirements for entry into the EU provided the JDP with the means to break that stagnant pattern. Finally, JDP realized that if the traditional powerlessness of the civilian politicians could be overcome, its conservative voter base can enjoy increased religious and personal freedoms.

The promise of “effective governance” became JDP’s election winning narrative. The government has taken pains to drive home the image that it is not one of those weak governments of the 1990s floating over the society, unable to solve any of its problems and yet closely integrated with the secular establishment and corporate interests. For the new government, priority placed on entry into the EU and reformist policies at home have served to provide a single coherent policy platform. Effective problem-solving by definition meant prioritizing democracy over security concerns and, inevitably, dismantling the influence of the traditional centres of power, most notably the Turkish Armed Forces’ (TAF)

Another global trend the JDP leadership took up was the personalization of politics. With the decline of the ideological functions of political parties, strong personalistic leaders became the main source of appeal to voters during the 1990s. In Erdogan’s case, he was the leader “who went from a jail cell to leadership of his country in less than four years.” While the pro-establishment commentators questioned his calibre to govern in an elitist manner, Erdogan cultivated the image of himself as a man of the people by emphasizing his poor background and by addressing people directly rather than by way of organizational channels. Rhetorically he stressed how the average voter had been short-changed by the populist policies of his predecessors. Thus, politics of heart replaced politics of aloof institutions.

II. JDP’s Deliberate Policies for Changing the Political Environment

The election victory of the JDP did alarm the politically active and powerful “secular establishment” headed by the Turkish military which has considerable civilian support. The president of the republic, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi –RPP), the segment of the judiciary dealing with national security issues (i.e., public prosecutors and the Constitutional Court), some elements of the civilian bureaucracy and especially the foreign ministry which has historically formulated and conducted foreign policy in close coordination with the Turkish general staff are other constituents of the secular establishment. This spectrum has continued to perceive the JDP government’s discourse with suspicion with regard to its true intentions. True enough, there is a historical animosity between the westernising idea of the republic, which the military zealously guards, and Islamic ideas and parties. The TAF redefined and intensified its “guardian” mission in the last decade in stronger terms to lock out Islamic and Kurdish “threats” from public life. In other words, during the 1990s, the armed forces identified internal security threats with the growing visibility of political Islam and the Kurdish question. These key political issues were considered to be a matter for the National Security Council, general staff and senior command, rather than being subjected to the democratic decision-making process by the constitutionally elected authority. As these issues had multiple dimensions, the political effectiveness of the Turkish high-command in terms of initiating and structuring policies was further entrenched and secured in the period.

In the new strategic context created by external circumstances after 9/11, however, the JDP government made deliberate attempts to create more space for its own administration and defy those policy preferences of the establishment that have stood in the way of Turkey’s integration into the Western bloc. Two instruments of opportunity, the JDP’s embrace of a full portfolio of political reform to achieve integration with the EU and its commitment to a negotiated settlement for Cyprus have, in more ways than one, helped this cause.

The EU and the JDP

In its formal Report on Turkey’s progress toward accession, published on October 6, 2004, the European Commission recommended that the country “sufficiently fulfils the political criteria” for the accession negotiations to open. Subsequently, in the European Council meeting on December 17, 2004 the 25 member countries cleared the way for formal accession talks to begin on October 3, 2005. The decision alarmed the European right at the prospect of a large Muslim nation neither “European” nor rich enough to join the bloc. Nevertheless, it was historic. The United States has also been keen to see Turkey join the European Union’s U.S.- friendly small group of countries.

On June 12, 2006 the examination and assessment of the acquis communautaire, i.e. the screening process began. Nevertheless, it soon became clear that formidable obstacles remain on the road to Turkey’s accession. One issue is Turkey opening its ports and airports to vessels from Cyprus which, if fulfilled, Turkey feels, carries the implication of Turkey’s de facto recognition of the Greek Cypriot administration as the Republic of Cyprus. The other problems are the infringements on freedom of expression, especially court cases against writers and journalists which seemed to rise in the last 2 years, as well as the Muslim and non-Muslim minority rights. On November 29, 2006 the Commission recommended to partially suspend membership negotiations with Turkey due to lack of progress on the Cyprus issue. The EU foreign ministers decided to follow the suit and suspended talks with Turkey on eight of the 35 negotiating chapters on December 11, 2006.

National Plan for the Adoption of the acquis was adopted in 2001, revised in 2003 and readopted in 2006. With the EU accession process in mind, the government’s reform initiatives which included 8 legislative packages between February 2002 and July 2004 have introduced expansion of freedom of expression; abolition of anti-terrorism provisions that authorized punishment for verbal propaganda against the unity of state and the death penalty; retrial rights for citizens whose court decisions are overthrown by the European Court of Human Rights; education and broadcasting in the Kurdish language, not to mention some softening of the intransigence of Turkish foreign policy towards the Cyprus question.

As part of the reforms to meet the entry requirements of the EU, on August 7, 2003, the government took the momentous step of passing legislation (7th Harmonization Package) which radically civilianised the functions and profile of the National Security Council (NSC), the centrepiece of the TAF’s prowess in politics, and converted it into an advisory body with less “legal” influence over national policy. Driven by the concern to protect its corporate and political interests in the long-run, the TAF can be said to have taken a step back from the prioritisation of its security-first discourse over an agenda of democracy and peace promoted by the government’s commitment to integration with the EU. It is true that throughout the last two decades the policies and strategies of the military establishment with regard to the EU has been ambivalent: its commitment to Europeanization –its own historic project for Turkey-- lessened as it put greater weight on securitizing the regime against Islamic activism and Kurdish separatism. Even after the three rounds of legal reforms that were implemented throughout 2002, the public statements of senior members of the military revealed the belief that such “compromises” were too high a price to pay for being included in a bloc which would dilute Turkish self-determination and which is biased against Turkey.

However, since the August 2003 reform bill, which formally cut down the power of the military in politics considerably, the TAF high command has continued its assertive role in public space and politics. Doubts and insecurities of the public around the EU issue which are encouraged if not totally constructed by the establishment is one chief source of the TAF’s political clout. A series of “illiberal” and Islam-sympathizing statements and policy intentions by the government -like wanting to grant local governments the right to regulate the consumption of alcohol and the charges brought against a number of prominent writers and intellectuals of “denigrating Turkishness” on the grounds of the article 301 of the Penal Code- also cause misgivings on the part of the more liberally inclined secularists and help them join causes with the establishment to some extent. But another source of the escalating anti-government politics by the TAF is the democratic reforms which shook some planks of the status quo. It is clear that beginning from 2003, there was genuine progress on the EU issue in tandem with resolute international support for the JDP. Upon visiting Turkey, EU President Romano Prodi praised the government’s adoption of radical reforms and expressed his surprise at the decisiveness and rate of the reform process. Similarly, Gunter Verheugen, then the EU Commissioner for Enlargement, referred to the speedy reforms carried out by the JDP government as the second revolution after the establishment of the Republic by Ataturk.

Progress has definitely been made in Turkey’s integration with the EU, i.e., its Europeanization. In fact, Speaker of the Finnish Parliament and the co-president of the High Level Advisory Group of the Party of European Socialists’, Paavo Lipponen, has recently commented that the real reformist party in Turkey is not the leftist RPP but the JDP, which has truly contributed to the development of the Turkish society. There is, however, much to be done for Turkey’s transformation into a liberal democratic state. The European Commission’s 2005 Enlargement Strategy Paper, published in November 2005, quite explicitly puts a list of reforms still waiting to be implemented. The EU’s Common Position Paper issued after Turkey-EU Partnership Council meeting on June 12, 2006 too maintains that progress has been made but “the pace of change has slowed in Turkey in the last year.” Therefore, the Position Paper recommends significant further efforts regarding the implementation of reforms in human rights; civil-military relations; security affairs; fundamental freedoms; torture and ill-treatment; non-violent expression of opinion; freedom of religion; cultural rights; protection of minorities; domestic violence and honor killings and normalization of relations between Turkey and EU members including the Greek Cypriot government.

Significance of Cyprus and the Kurdish Issue for the JDP

Turkey’s secular establishment instrumentalize the Cyprus issue to keep a status quo that is dependant on the primacy of national security considerations and conservative-nationalist politics. However, the JDP government’s commitment to the EU has made it clear that there is a positive correlation between Turkey being accepted as a full member of the Union and a solution for the Cyprus issue. As the accession of a new member state can only be unanimously decided by the EU member states, according to the respective positions of the EU Treaty, Greek and Greek Cypriot consent are seperately necessary for Turkish membership. It is highly unlikely that the Greek Cypriot government would agree to the Turkish accession whilst Cyprus remains a divided island and Turkish troops remain stationed in the north. The fact that the JDP addresses the Cyprus issue by supporting the Annan Plan for the peaceful reunification of island is an evidence of its recognition that zealouslycontinued division of the island remains a constant obstacle to the success of Turkey’s efforts to join the EU. The Annan plan was simultaneously taken to referendum on both parts of the island on April 24, 2004, just a week before the joining of the Greek Cypriot administration to the EU as the Republic of Cyprus. With the encouragement of the JDP government Turkish Cypriots accepted the plan, while the Greek Cypriots rejected it by 76% under the influence of an officially sponsored “no” campaign. Turkey’s positive commitment to the resolution of the conflict was also acknowledged by the European leaders who met on December 17, 2004 which set October 3, 2005 as the date to begin formal accession negotiations with Turkey.

On the Iraqi issue, prevention of the emergence of a splinter Kurdish state in Northern Iraq as part of the US’s anti-Saddam strategy before and after the war against Iraq has been the predominant consideration shaping the JDP government’s policies. Parliament’s decision on March 1, 2003 not to grant US troops access to Iraq via Turkish territory, surprising though it may have been against a backdrop of time-tested strategic and political ties between Washington and Ankara, did chime well with the popular reluctance to play an instrumental role in waging war on a Muslim neighbour. Since then, despite a number of ceasefires the separatists have offered to Ankara, US supported Kurdish Authority in Iraq has provided a safe haven for Turkey’s Kurdish separatists to launch their attacks. This situation has highlighted the external dimension to the Kurdish question and strengthened the hand of hardliners in the establishment. On the other hand, the US’s reluctance to take action against the bases of separatist groups in Northern Iraq has led to a rising anti-American sentiment on a popular level which is encouraged by the secular establishment. Domestically, in a bid to win the nationalist support ahead of parliamentary elections in November 2007, the JDP government has also converged with the establishment on the need for a “military” solution to all facets of the Kurdish question and foreign policy in the region.

The government’s frustration with the USA manifests itself in its constant calls for the US forces to launch cross-border military attacks to root out the Kurdish terrorist from their enclaves in Northern Iraq. Having been tied up elsewhere in Iraq, the US does not seem to be inclined to open another front to stop the conduct of terrorist activities in Northern Iraq. Since the Kurdish dominated north is the most peaceful part of Iraq and since the Kurds are the staunchest, if not the only US ally in Iraq, the US does not also seem willing to allow a cross-border military action on the part of Turkish forces either. In order to tame the increasing anti-US sentiment and to weaken the hands of the proponents of a cross-border movement, the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, paid a visit to Turkey in April 2006. It was in this meeting that a decision was reached to institute a mechanism to coordinate the struggle against armed Kurdish separatist groups in Northern Iraq. Hence, Iraq, Turkey and the US have appointed Amir Ameed Hassun, retired general Edip Baser and retired General Joseph Ralston respectively as the so-called “anti-PKK coordinators.” General Baser, known for his views that the PKK is a problem created by the Europeans, was nominated by the general staff and appointed by the government. Since his appointment, he made a number of public statements stepping beyond his capacity as coordinator. For example, he warned the elected mayors in the Kurdish dominated south-eastern region not to abuse the tolerance and patience of citizens with their acts and discourses; and asked for their removal from the office. Erdogan recently commented that since the beginning of its operation in October 2006, the coordination mechanism has not produced any concrete results. His comments were interpreted as a criticism of the work of coordinators as well as calling for the resignation of Ret. Gen. Baser.

III. Is Turkey’s Secularism Threatened by the Policies of the JDP Government?

It is correct to say that the post-1997 attempts to stem the tide of the Islamic threat have failed and that the establishment regards the JDP’s advent to power through democratic means as evidence that the threat has grown in size. That is why it regards the EU project of the ruling party as a piece of simulation intended to disguise its anti-secular Islamic agenda. It should also be noted that while the era of military interventions is past, the TAF retains a significant degree of leverage. It has strong civilian allies to protect the officers’ vision of democracy and to help counter any the threats to the regime. The opposition RPP, for example, believes that the JDP is abusing Turkey’s EU-membership project as a cover for its own Islamist ends.

The ruling party has adopted a double-track strategy towards the secular establishment: while it has stepped back from some of its reform plans in the face of strong criticism by the establishment and has opted for a policy of seeking consensus with the secular establishment on many fundamental issues, it has also taken steps designed to reduce the secular establishment’s sphere of influence. Through a series of reforms in civil-military relations, the judiciary, parliamentary procedures, minority rights, national security, macroeconomic management, and the public sector, the JDP government has endeavoured to improve political and economic life in a more democratic manner.

The JDP’s Designs on Secularism

What prompted the party leadership’s appropriation of this new wave of Europeanization is, in part, a strategic choice: “if the JDP begins to challenge secularism, it will lose its political battle to govern Turkey by alienating most of its voters as well as the secularist bloc.” This is so because by pulling the country towards European norms and standards of democracy, the government both deflects any possible opposition that might come from secular quarters and also supports the social and political aspirations of those who are not averse to the Islamic perspective: “The only way for this party to survive in power... is through a liberal transformation of the Turkish polity and its civilianization. This explains why the JDP does not just pay a token attention to EU accession: it is a matter of enlightened self-interest, and the party clearly knows it.”

The secular establishment rejects the Islamic-democratic model on the grounds that the secular character of the Republic and a “moderate” Islam are incompatible. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Prime Minister, while starting from a point of reference that is completely at cross purposes with that of the high command’s, agrees on the meaninglessness of the emphasis on “moderate” Islam. For him, any division between radical and moderate wings within Islam is redundant as Islam is unitarian in nature. He, therefore, affirms the importance of secularism on the grounds that it is an absolutely necessary concept in order to ensure the state’s neutrality between Muslims and non-Muslims. It is this understanding of secularism which underlines the prime minister’s pro-EU rhetoric. In this regard, he employs the orientalist “clash of civilizations” discourse of Samuel Huntington in reverse and maintains that even though in Turkey, cultures of Islam and democracy have merged together, there is, in fact, a dichotomic existence/civilizations of Muslims and non-Muslims and that Turkey’s inclusion in the EU will bring harmony of civilizations. At the Davos World Economic Forum in January 2005, the prime minister was extremely explicit about the conveyor belt role of Turkey in the region, or as he puts it, “transmitting the EU’s point of view to the region and vice versa.”

The “bridge” metaphor can also be viewed as simply an opportunist discourse which relies on the alleged clash between the West and the East in order to mobilize western support for the government’s flagship project of being part of the EU. Similarly, it is an argument the leadership uses in trying to convince the hard-line nationalist and Islamist elements in the party who are suspicious of the deal struck with Brussels: “Turkey feels that our relations with the EU is a project of civilization of peace and of cooperation… it is not a union of economics, it is not a Christian club. It is a union of battles.”

The JDP-led democratization via Europeanization is marked by a concern to refrain from clashing with the guardians of the republic. In order to minimize the risk of a direct collision with the establishment, the JDP equated Europeanization with the Kemalist project of “reaching the level of contemporary civilizations.” In this way, the JDP portrayed its democratizing agenda as a “technical” readjustment to European standards and hoped to “neutralize” the political/ideological implications of Turkey’s Europeanization. In the meantime, the JDP itself failed to grasp the “political” nature of the Europeanization as well. Consequently, it carried out the reforms in an elitist manner, without raising the awareness of people about the challenging (and rewarding) aspects of democratization and liberalization. As will be seen below, the JDP was therefore unable to produce a political strategy for a sustainable Europeanization process.

External Factors Impeding the JDP’s Adoption of an Anti-Secular Agenda

Turkey is a long time NATO member and a major US ally with a geography that sits astride Europe, the Balkans, the Middle East and the Transcaucasus. That coupled with the Islamic credentials of the JDP government and Turkey’s “strong and secular” military power, now offers the transatlantic alliance a chance to exert some leverage in the region, as well as the strategic means to counter the Islamic threat. In trying to understand the role of external factors in impeding a radical agenda for the JDP, it is essential to understand the strategic environment that arose in the aftermath of September 11. In this environment, sympathy and support for what is considered to be moderately Islamic government of Turkey is not at all irreconcilable with the prevailing moral sensibility that gives primacy to secular forces in international politics. As a reliable Muslim NATO ally, located strategically along trans-regional fault lines, a militarily strong Turkey is considered a bulwark against the spread of radical Islam. The Commission’s 2005 Progress Report on Turkey underlines Turkey’s potential influence on Muslim countries, the Caucasus and Central Asia in urging them to face the necessity of democratic reforms. Syria and Iran are cited as examples where Turkey is said to use its influence to convince the leadership of these countries to abide by the requests of international community on several occasions.

However, even after the Gulf War there were some factors that clouded the perceived value of Turkey for the transatlantic alliance. Since 1998, many of the European Commission’s annual progress reports on Turkish accession have stated that Turkey fell well short of meeting the requirements for accession. This was primarily because of Turkey’s record on freedom of expression, cultural rights, human rights, retention of death penalty and the TAF’s political role. Moreover, many Europeans remained sceptical about Turkey’s capacity to genuinely be part of the culture, politics and economy of an “alien” continent.

Turkey now presents both a challenge and an opportunity for the EU because of its military prowess, vast market and “moderately Islamic” yet doggedly “secular system of government.” Proponents of a superpower EU predict that Turkey is central to the EU’s drive for global status and emphasize the fact that “Ankara’s forces are greater than those of France and Britain combined, with 514,000 men under arms and 380,000 in reserve, plus a robust air force with American fighters.”

This new state of affairs seems to account for the more favourable light that is shed on Turkey’s long-held aspiration of being European in a region of “backward” religious beliefs, poverty, underdevelopment and democratic shortfall. The relationship is mutually advantageous because Turkey is both useful to the West and has “a vision of the future anchored in the West.” Indeed, the secular regime refuses to define Turkey’s identity in terms of Muslimness or to countenance any public role for Islam. But its definition of a secular identity is also unfixed or open to debate: The TAF suspects that the JDP has a hidden Islamist agenda despite its moderate façade. On the other hand, the military bureaucracy has, in the past, also consistently raised the same doubts for the non-Islamist centre-right political parties and leaders with regard to their alleged support for unsecular activities as well. This means that it has been very difficult for Turkey’s civilian political structures and leaders to accommodate the military’s fuzzy definition of secularism.

IV. Is the JDP Regressing from Its Democratic-Reform Agenda?

The open signals emitted by the EU that Turkey’s admission into the EU will be delayed for an indefinite period have helped draw the government closer to the secular establishment on the management of key policy issues led by the Cyprus question and the Kurdish problem. Indeed, the balance sheet of the JDP since October 3, 2005 -the date when the formal accession negotiations with Turkey started- shows a consensus between the general staff, the Foreign Ministry and the other decision-making echelons of the secular establishment and the government on the fundamental that “it would be unjust to ask Turkey to make gestures after the referenda in Cyprus.” The secular establishment including the opposition leader Deniz Baykal, an ardent supporter of Kemalist policies and the intransigent line on Cyprus, also joined forces with the establishment in characterizing the path of entry into the EU as a “dead end” and warning the government not to sign the supplementary protocol on Cyprus and “sacrifice Cyprus” for a redundant goal. In January 2006, the JDP government issued an Action Plan for Cyprus, which proposed opening Turkish ports to vessels from Cyprus in return for lifting some of the blockades on the Turkish Cypriot community. Although it was welcomed by the UN, the US and the EU, this plan was not implemented due to its rejection by Greek Cypriots. Since then, while emphasizing its goodwill, the JDP waits for the EU to fulfil its promise of relaxing the isolation of Turkish Cypriot community before taking any unilateral step towards unification of the island.

In a historic speech he delivered in the southeastern town of Diyarbakir on August 10, 2005, Erdogan apologized for the past mistakes committed by the state in dealing with the Kurdish issue. He also recognized that hindrances to the public expression of the Kurdish identity are an aspect of the problem. This anti-status quoist stance has come under attack by the pro-establishment forces including the main opposition RPP which accused the JDP of turning Turkishness into an ethnic sub-identity. Implying that the issue does not fall into the government’s area of discretion, a National Security Council statement issued after its August 2005 meeting warned Erdogan that the duty of the Republican governments is to fulfill the tasks set out in the constitution in accordance with the fundamental philosophy of the regime. Since then, while claiming that security can only be achieved with democratic maturity, the JDP has, in practice, steadily aligned with the establishment and reduced the Kurdish issue to a matter of armed separatism only. So much so that, when a JDP deputy from the region tried to draw Erdogan’s attention to the fact that cases of torture and political killings are eroding citizen’s trust in the state, the Prime Minister accused the deputy of speaking like the mouth-piece of the PKK and said: “do not talk about these issues.” Erdogan also refused to meet with the co-chairman of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (Demokratik Toplum Partisi- DSP, November 11, 2005-), Ahmet Turk, on the grounds that DSP does not recognize the PKK as a terrorist organization nor condemn it. The DSP criticized Erdogan’s attitude by pointing out that sons and daughters of his voters are in the ranks of the PKK and that the issue is so complex that it cannot be resolved simply by condemning the PKK. Recently, Aysel Tugluk, the other co-chair of DSP and a former lawyer of the PKK’s leader Abdullah Ocalan, issued a written statement blaming Erdogan of being inconsistent and insincere in his approach to the Kurdish issue and calling him to implement a realist policy.

The JDP’s turn to statist-nationalist politics can further be seen in the amendments to the Anti-terror law. In June 2006, to meet the Turkish general staff’s criticism that as a result of Europeanizing reforms, the TAF was forced to fighting against terrorism with limited means, the JDP amended the Anti-terror law in such a way that a wide range of criminal offences became punishable as acts of terrorism. In addition, verbal “propaganda” by way of shouting slogans and carrying banners during demonstrations in favor of terrorist groups was turned into a crime carrying a penalty of up to three years prison. This retrograde trend resulted in the failure of the JDP to amend the article 301 of the Turkish Penal Law, which hinders freedom of expression by criminalizing “denigrating Turkish identity,” the crime itself being defined vaguely. The opposition RPP fully supports the article on the grounds that although similar articles exist in European countries, no cases are filed against intellectuals because they commit no denigration of their national identity. By implication, the RPP expects Turkish intellectuals to respect Turkish identity as their European counterparts respect their own national identities. The RPP’s leader Baykal rather rhetorically claimed that “we have almost reached the point at which we apologize for being Turkish!” and portrayed Erdogan as “looking for someone else to take the responsibility for lifting obstacles to insulting and humiliating Turkish identity.”

There are, however, divisions within the JDP government as well. The Justice Minister Cemil Çiçek, for example, is critical of the EU and remote to the prospects of amending the article. The JDP therefore could not amend the article, instead, could only put the blame on the public prosecutors who filed cases against writers and journalist and emphasize the need for the change of mentalities.

This loss of momentum in the reform process and the tendency to leave the issues to time while adopting a nationalist stance actually signifies a new trend in the JDP government. In this new trend, the approval of the establishment is sought for not only secularism-related issues but also for democratization-related problems. There are a number of reasons for the JDP’s new approach. First of all, increasing terrorist activities and PKK orchestrated intifada-like riots, which lasted 3 days in spring 2006 in Diyarbakir, have prompted a nationalist reaction in Turkey. These events also provided a pretext for the pro-establishment institutions like the universities to attack on the JDP government by publishing announcements in dailies calling the JDP to take legal precautions to protect the indivisible integrity of the country, to reevaluate the relations with the EU in this light and to reconsider selling property to foreigners.

Secondly, the criminalization of the denial of Armenian genocide claims by the French parliament in October 2006 and the British anti-terror law, which retreats from civil liberties in the name of combating terrorism have strengthened the hands of the nationalist-conservative forces in Turkey. The claim that the EU is trying to undermine powers of the state, and thereby Turkish unity, by asking for freedoms that the EU countries themselves lack has resonated with more people. Thirdly, despite the start of accession negotiations, the half-hearted European support for Turkey’s full membership has weakened the pro-reform circles and the reformist aspects of the JDP policies vis a vis the establishment. Finally, especially after the approval of the ban on wearing the headscarf on university premises in Turkey by the European Court of Human Rights and the silence of the Progress Reports with regards to rights and liberties of Islamic identity, the JDP feels that its constituency has been discriminated against by the EU. As it stands, in the pluralist public sphere envisioned by the EU, there is no room for the representation of Islamic identity. The EU therefore does not provide the JDP with practical wherewithal to redefine secularism as a matter of democracy and pluralism.

However, the impact of these developments would have been less had the JDP been a less instrumentalist and pragmatic party with a clear vision of democratization. In other words, in the absence of an opposition that gives effective expression to the language of democratization and liberalism, the JDP appears as the only pro-democratization reformist force. But, the JDP’s own understanding of democracy has its own defects and therefore its susceptibility to nationalist rhetoric is high. The JDP’s democratization drive via Europeanization was informed by instrumental reasons, i.e. to strengthen the elected political class vis a vis the non-elected state elite. Moreover, the JDP carried out its reform programme by de-emphasizing ideology as a left over from the cold war era and by portraying it as a technical readjustment to global trends, discord with which will result in the disintegration of the country. Since political alternatives on thorny issues have often been charged by the state elite for being separatist or reactionary threats to the republican regime, the JDP hoped to find a safe haven in presenting reformist policies as technical/non-ideological necessities of an ongoing Westernization program.

The JDP’s de-emphasis on ideology, however, resulted in a rather naïve understanding of “politics as harmony.” Such an understanding neglects the conceptualization of “politics as conflict and consensus.” It thereby hinders the JDP’s capacities to play leadership roles by taking initiatives and to make choices at critical junctures. Moreover, since pragmatist political parties throughout the democratic history of the Republic have been unable to transform Turkey’s electoral democracy into a liberal one, establishing a positive correlation between pragmatism and better prospects for further democratization is misleading. Those who claim that opportunities and demands created by the ballot box combined with pragmatist politics will produce Muslim democrats/democracy, for example, overlook the fact that further democratization in Turkey and elsewhere in the Muslim world necessitates rule-making and institution-building to regulate and channel political conflicts. Conceptually, intellectually and theoretically, the JDP’s approach to political activity falls short of the qualities needed to achieve such a task.

The roots of the JDP’s instrumentalism can also be linked to its understanding of politics. The JDP restricts the power relations to formal sphere of politics between the political class and the state elite. In this way, it misses power relations between the various groups in society and thus the substantive societal dimensions of democratization. In this respect, the EU project, which calls for public representation of societal groups like Alevis, Kurds and non-Muslim minorities, poses challenges to the JDP itself. The JDP’s “harmonious unity of differences” discourse does not allow for politicization of power relations at the societal level. “Bringing our differences to a political level,” Erdogan warned the pro-Kurdish Democatic People’s Party, “will be the biggest damage one can make to this country.” The JDP’s instrumentalism has further reinforced the Turkish public opinion that democratization in Turkey is not end itself, but a means to the bounty of full membership in the EU. Hence, the dispensability of the Europeanization/democratization project under circumstances of uncertainty in reaching the bounty.

V. Is the JDP an Islamist Party?

Islamism has been represented in the Turkish political arena by the National Outlook Movement (Milli Gorus Hareketi-NOM), which established five successive political parties under the formal or informal leadership of Necmettin Erbakan since 1970: National Order Party (1970-71), National Salvation Party (1971-1981), Welfare Party (1983-1998), Virtue Party (1997-2001) and Felicity Party (2001-). With the exception of the Virtue Party period, in which the division within the movement between the young “reformist” and elder “traditionalist” generation was crystallized under the extraordinary circumstances of the 1997 military intervention, the political parties of the NOM have represented Islamism par excellence in Turkey. A brief comparison of the political stances of the WP and the JDP is therefore essential for assessing whether or not the latter is Islamist. One must also bear in mind that it is not the problematization of the political system in itself, but the particular angle of the problematization that makes a party Islamist. Therefore, especially in a context where further democratization requires a systemic transformation, equating a pro-Islamic party with anti-systemic activities is a misleading characterization.

The WP was an Islamist party for, its diagnoses of and prescriptions for societal/political problems were all religious in essence. It narrated the history as a process of clash between “just” religious and “unjust” secular civilizations, the latter being represented by the West, whose fundamental characteristic was said to be oppression against Muslims. In its struggle to revitalize the Islamic civilization, the WP equated itself with Islam and portrayed all its followers as its believers who by working and voting for the party would reach salvation. The WP aimed at eradicating the “degenerating” effects of Turkish Westernism by instrumentalizing the state-power to implement a top-down project of Islamization. This resulted in a power-oriented and state-centered institutional conservatism, which problematized the “secular” qualities of the personnel filling the ranks of state, but not the quasi-democratic form of state-society relationship. In so doing, the WP portrayed itself as the representative of “the truth” and as the spearhead of Islam vis a vis the “alienated” Westernizing elite, secular sectors of society and other Islamic groups like religious orders and communities, which have a different understanding and practice of religion. By implication, the WP disregarded the heterogeneous nature of society, attributed to it a certain Islamic identity, and failed to see the importance of consensus-building and self-limitation in ruling. Hence, the WP’s government experience between 1996 and 1997 showed that it was more ready to mobilize Islamic values to conserve the existing system than to reject it by giving effective expression to individual rights and to the expansion of political sphere.

The JDP as a splinter of the NOM, however, does not associate itself with religion, rather it defines itself as a political party to be distinguished from a religion-party. Religious politics or a religion-party, Erdogan maintained on many occasions, is detrimental to democracy, peace, religion and pluralism. As a corollary, the JDP refrained from employing a religious discourse and exclusively focusing on issues related to rights and liberties of Islamic identity in Turkey. When it took up such issues as the ban on wearing headscarf at university premises, the JDP government framed them in terms of civil liberties and wanted the other political actors to conceive the issue similarly so as to reach a consensus. It also emphasized the importance of maintaining the consensus of all state institutions for, without such a consensus any attempt at redefinition of secularism, they believe, would result in further restrictions on the liberties of Islamic identity as happened during the rule of the WP. In this way, the JDP hoped to avoid the curse of the secular establishment.

The JDP differs from the WP also in its positive assessment of globalization as the changing context of politics to which Turkey should adopt. As such, it does not employ an anti-Western rhetoric. It rather employs the language of pluralism and consensus and aims at limiting the domains of state control to overcome the bureaucratic-statist structures, which, it maintains, hinders Turkey’s further modernization, development and democratization. Hence, while the WP focused on the cultural (westernist) aspects of the Turkish political system and aimed at altering it without changing the basic institutional set-up, the JDP focuses on the institutional aspects (state-centered nature) of the political system. In doing so, the JDP hopes to expand the spheres of existence for its own Islamic constituency.

The secular establishment, however, fears that once the grip of the state loosens, a process of Islamization will inevitably start. Thus, the JDP is said to have a hidden Islamist agenda aiming at releasing the Islamist forces in society. Nevertheless, Turkish secularism is likewise a religious phenomenon, because it involves the promotion of an official Islam subservient to the state. In this respect, Turkish practice of secularism has been unable to individualize religion; rather it expects Turks to believe and practice Islam in a certain way. As such, one function of secularism has been to draw lines of demarcation between tolerable and intolerable religious practices as well as between politics and politicians. Moreover, by virtue of promoting an official religion, even when it is confined to individual conscience, Turkish secularism has pointed at potential politicization of personal beliefs and the blurring of the distinction between the public and private. As a corollary, the power struggle between the secular establishment and Islamists takes place also in the realm life-styles and cultural codes. Hence, the secularism debate revolves around the question ‘who and what life-styles will be visible in the Turkish public sphere’.

It could be argued that, after the crackdown on Islamic identity during the 1997 intervention, the JDP’s accession to political power has resulted in the flourishing of the Islamic sectors of society at the grass roots level. Consequently, in the autumn 2006, key figures of the establishment --the president, the chief of the staff, the commanders of forces and top members of the judiciary-- drew in tandem attention to the increasing reactionist threats to the republican regime. In response, Erdogan accepted that there are extremists threatening the Republican values since long ago, and he held the establishment responsible for failing to rehabilitate them. His stance on Islamist extremism, therefore, can be said to deal with the issue within the framework of law and order and with a view to rehabilitate, rather than impose a crackdown on them. Obviously, the JDP does not share the same views of the establishment on what constitutes Islamist reactionism, finds the establishment’s claims exaggerated and asks for evidence of reactionism to take action against it. Does this mean that the JDP encourages Islamism?

Some of the JDP-run municipalities, for example, have verified the secularist fears of Islamization by publishing and distributing book(lets) propagating Islamist views. One such a publication by Istanbul’s Eyup (a township in Istanbul) municipality claims that failing to wear headscarf is a sin and those who ban wearing it are the enemies of Islam. A similar publication by the JDP-run Istanbul’s Tuzla municipality discourages handshaking between men and women and taking contraceptives; and justifies on religious grounds polygamy and marriage for girls once they reach the age of nine. Finally, the municipality of Istanbul’s most cosmopolitan quarter, Beyoglu, endorsed that there is nothing humans can do about traffic accidents for they occur as a result of one’s (predetermined) fate. The JDP headquarters reacted to these publications by issuing an internal memorandum warning that it is not the business of the municipalities as public institutions to issue fatwas and calling the municipalities to stop publishing religious books. Bearing in mind that most of the rank and file of the JDP is recruited from the Islamist WP, the JDP headquarters’ attitude towards the municipalities is important. In fact, this strategy stands in stark contrast to the WP leadership’s which had never disapproved or criticized rhetorical statements such as that made by the mayor of Sincan (a suburb of Ankara) when he declared in 1997 that they would inject sharia into the seculars. The JDP has also been criticized from within for encouraging the consumption of alcohol and from the Islamist constituency for failing to resolve the headscarf issue. That the JDP’s rank and file comes from an Islamist background and that the party fears losing control and becoming an outlet for their excessive Islamist demands can be a reason for the JDP’s retreat from its original promise of intra-party democracy.

Yet there are instances of the JDP’s conservative bias. The JDP’s views on compulsory religious education, Alevi minority, and alcohol consumption reveal the illiberal aspects of the party and the limits to its understanding of democracy. Owner of a famous brand of swimsuits in Istanbul complains that since 2003 he could not get access to Istanbul billboards to advertise his products for women. The Minister of Education, Huseyin Celik is against the idea of amending the constitution, promulgated by the 1980 coup administration, to make religious classes optional even for the students from the Alevi sect in Turkey. Similar views are endorsed by Erdogan as well, who argues that memorizing verses cited in the daily prayers cannot be considered as religious education, which, for him, entails a detailed study of the Qur’an. The Alevi belief however does not necessarily require the practice of daily prayers, and therefore forcing them --as well as the children of non-practicing Muslims-- to memorize verses for daily prayers cannot be a part of their religious education. Erdogan practically rejects the existence of Alevis as a distinct group with their own prayers and rituals by claiming that “if it is following the path of Prophet Ali, I am more Alevi than the Alevis.”

Another instance of the JDP’s conservative bias can be seen in Erdogan’s approval of municipalities tightly regulating the issuing of licenses to sell and serve alcohol. Erdogan defines the issue as fulfillment of the constitutional stipulation that the youth must be protected from alcohol, drugs and gambling. For him, drinking alcohol must not be permitted in places controlled by the public authorities. This, however, is nothing more than a reproduction of the same mentality that bars the Islamic visibility from public institutions. After all, it is a constitutional stipulation to protect the secular and westernist nature of the republic as well. Erdogan, however, categorizes the headscarf issue but not the choice for drinking alcohol as a matter of rights and liberties beyond the domain of state regulation.

The JDP came to power rather prematurely, i.e. only 14 months after its foundation and when its political identity was still in making. It could be argued that even after four years in the government, the JDP’s political identity is yet to be stabilized. It takes up the issues relating to Islamic identity without prioritizing them. As some of these issues can be understood within the framework of liberalization and strengthening of individual civil liberties, the JDP cannot be defined as strictly Islamist on the grounds of its problematization of, for example, the ban on wearing headscarf. On the other hand, the JDP employs a liberal language only when it comes to rights and liberties of Islamic identity. Erdogan criticizes the monist (i.e., secular/Kemalist) conceptualization of the public sphere on the grounds that it is closed to societal differences and it inhibits freedom to criticize the ban on wearing headscarf on university premises. But when it comes to such societal differences as Turkish Alevis, Kurds, Armenians, Greek Orthodox and so on, the JDP recognizes their existence but forecloses their political representation by conceptualizing society as a harmonious unity of differences without any power relations between, for example, Kurds and Turks, men and women, labor and capital and so on. The normative bias of the JDP against a pluralist-liberalizing discourse can further be seen in its failed attempt to criminalize adultery in the autumn of 2004. By categorizing the issue of adultery as a matter of morality and by aiming to criminalize it, Erdogan has clearly shown that there are conservative exceptions to the principle of restricting the domains of state intervention.

VI. Conclusions

A “Europeanist” posture in foreign policy and a “reformist” one internally seem to make up the two simultaneous strategies which underpin the first leg of the JDP’s effective governance. The other leg of its strategy has been to employ a defensive and low-keyed tone and substance in its discourse regarding the key issues which have been securitized since the 1990s. This second component of its strategy represents its accommodative strategy towards the establishment. These strategies operate against a background which is widely thought to be responsible for the JDP’s rise to power: the structural and moral disintegration of dominant power relations in Turkey. The 2002 elections, in other words, made it clear the rejection by vast sectors of the population of the existing political framework and of political inertia. This situation offered the JDP government the chance to embark on its “change/reform” mandate in order to focus on easing the daily life of ordinary people in an economy reeling from the effects of the gravest slump (February 2001)in the country’s history, prioritize democracy over security concerns and diminish, reduce or dismantle the influence of the traditional centers of power.

The questions we tried to address in this paper include how is it possible for the ruling party to able to cope with the historical tension with the secular establishment and restore some sense of well-being to a nation which seemed to have completely lost it in the previous decade. In other words what are the “deliberate” attempts and policy designs of the government to challenge, contain or undermine the powerful modus operandi set against itself by the secular establishment? Likewise, another central concern is about the secular establishment’s position and measures to counter the government’s attempts to alter the power balance in its favour.

Can the secular establishment led by the Armed Forces cope with the changing balance of forces and what are the assumptions that underpin its position? It is fair to suggest that the combination of internal and international forces has reduced the choices available to the TAF high command to either accepting a shift in the power equation away from the military as part of conditions of entry into the EU, or risk some loss of its autonomy. The new factors that shape the high-command’s strategic calculus can be traced to two trends: one is the tradition of politics in Turkey wherein a premium is placed more on the legitimacy of electoral results than the rule of law and the protection of individual rights. The armed forces risk their long-term survival if it ignores the JDP’s electoral popularity or obstructs the JDP’s democratic reform and EU-accession agenda that it itself shares. The other factor is the military’s remarkably broad reading of what is required in order to guard the republican ideology, or Kemalism as it has come to be known.

The lessons the Islam-friendly JDP drew from its earlier political incarnations and from the failure of the civilian political class in the 1990’s seem to have strengthened its resolve to adopt an efficient and effective problem-solving approach to the key political problems. At the same time, the party’s newfound calling was assisted by its commitment to the democratic reform requirements of integration with the EU and by the strategic significance of Turkey in the region following September 11. Turkey’s geopolitical significance for the west arose because of its “moderately Islamic” yet stringently secular character of government, its possession of the second largest military force of any NATO member state; its record of having fought a successful civil war against separatism; and its location in a highly unstable region that includes two members of President Bush’s so-called “axis of evil” (namely, Iran and Iraq).

Democratic Governance and Reform of the Security Sector: the Experience of Turkey by Umit Cizre


Professor Ümit Cizre

Department of Political Science

Bilkent University

Ankara Turkey


Fax: + 90 312 290 27 42

Phone: + 90 312 266 48 71

Paper originally presented at “Security Sector Reform in the Arab World” between 7- 8 July 2006 in Beirut organized by The Lebanese Center for Policy Studies (LCPS) and Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS)

This paper is organized in three sections: following a conceptual overview of the “democratic governance” of the Security Sector, the study moves onto the next section where it explains why the civil-military balance and national security policy making are the dominant foci of democratic governance in Turkey in general, and as the primary orientation of Security Sector Reform (SSR) in particular. In the last part, the paper will analyze briefly the challenges and problems in the sector and the approaches used to address them by democratic reforms. The study aims to contribute to building up theoretically informed empirical case studies of democratic governance and reform of the Security Sector (henceforth SS) at international and regional level.


In identifying the characteristics of “democratic governance” of the SS, this study accepts five foundational principles which are endorsed in the Concept Paper adopted by the European Council on 24 May 2006 in its Brussels meeting. This paper lays down the principles, norms and the relevant policy frameworks of the SSR which the European Commission supports. The EU is engaged in SS related governance problems in over 70 countries which are situated in quite diverse regions and political systems ranging from relative stable environments to those undergoing transition and democratization, from immediate post-conflict to longer-term post-conflict societies, and from peace-building to reconstruction processes.

The first key concern in the democratic governance of security sector is to achieve a new sensibility within the security institutions towards the protection of the lives, property, and political, economic and social rights of citizenry while maintaining effective policy responses to new security threats. In the Concept paper, human security is defined as “freedom from want, freedom from fear and freedom to take action on one’s behalf.” The EC’s Concept Paper provides perhaps one of the most succinct expressions of the rationale of the democratic accountability of security organizations regarding human security: “The State has to be able to protect citizens from the threats of insecurity, including violent conflict and terrorism, while protecting rights and institutions from being undermined by these threats.” The former is the classic function of the state, whereas the latter makes sense in a political environment which operates in accordance with democratic norms and sound principles of democratic governance.

Secondly, there is another dimension of democratic governance as set up in the Concept Paper: it is defined not just privileging effectiveness in the sector by building military statecraft and police forces to fight against crime, prevent violence and protect citizens but promoting functional efficiency via building “good governance, democratic norms, the rule of law and the respect and promotion of human rights, in line with internationally agreed norms.” Security sector reform is defined as a nationally/regionally owned process designed to strengthen good governance, democratic norms, the rule of law and respect for a rights-based regime encompassing “all state institutions and other entities with a role in ensuring the security of the state and its people.” The Concept Paper reflects the growing consensus that democratic accountability of the sector and its effectiveness actually reinforce one another.

The third key concern is about the integrated nature of the reform in the sector: both the “security providing “ as well as “overseeing” organs themselves must be improved in fulfilling their respective functions of providing and governing security. This element is candidly expressed in the Concept Paper: “SSR concerns reform of both the bodies which provide security to citizens and state institutions responsible for management and oversight of these bodies. Thus SSR goes beyond the notion of effectiveness of individual services (including the military, the police and justice institutions, etc.) and instead focuses on the overall functioning of the security system as part of a governance reform policy and strategy of the public sector. In other words, SSR should be seen as a holistic process, strengthening security for all citizens as well as addressing the governance deficits of the parliaments and governments. This is to ensure that the security sector is not placed or treated outside the overall public sector, but seen as an integral but balanced part of public resource allocations and the institutional framework of the state. The prevailing understanding of the security sector reform is therefore based on the premise that SSR “may not be achievable and are certainly unsustainable unless effectively integrated within a governance reform program that at the very least addresses weaknesses in the democratic process.” The EU’s democratic reform criteria in the sector for the candidate countries reflects this.

Fourthly, security sector’s governance is not just about establishing oversight by “elected” bodies over security agencies; it is also about addressing weaknesses in the whole overseeing process by bringing in extra-parliamentary civilian centers, media, civil society and other non-state structures of governance to monitor the system. Contemporary concept of “democratic accountability” transcends the bureaucratic mechanisms of formal parliamentary and executive oversight of the security organs. As a result, managers of security agencies are now required to adopt a more inclusive approach that promotes the participation of wider sectors of civil society in defence and security issues and policies so as to achieve a fuller transparency and accountability. The cardinal principle to remember is that civilian governance of the sector is not always democratic: non-democratic regimes achieve excellent governance over their security institutions too. But every democratic governance is civilian.

Finally, once it is accepted that the civilian democratic governance transcends the formal overseeing mechanisms of the national parliaments and governments, it follows that free access to relevant information on defence and security issues on the part of parliaments, civilian bureaucracy, media and civil society is essential in building up civilian capacity and expertise to be able to offer civilian strategic guidance in handling internal and external security; in clarifying roles and responsibilities of various agencies and in establishing mechanisms that can direct and supervise day-to-day operations. The European Commission’s 2005 Progress Report of 9 November 2005 on Turkey embodies this SSR perspective beyond doubt: “in addition to the reforms in the sector, it is important that the civilian authorities fully exercise their supervisory functions in practice. Further efforts are needed to raise awareness among elected members of parliament and to continue to build up the relevant expertise among civilians. The question of strengthening parliamentary oversight of defence expenditure has increasingly become a subject of interest for the media and civil society.”

With regard to the empowerment of civilians, there is a growing body of literature around the notion of “shared responsibility in civil-military relations” which creates a model of relationship in which civilian and military sides speak in the same vernacular and in the same political and technical terms. The theory of a shared relationship, however, raises the question of how civilian oversight of the armed forces can be achieved when they usually lack the necessary skills, knowledge and expertise to understand defence and security issues. Even in advanced western democracies, “asymmetry of knowledge” is a big problem in establishing national policy and budgetary frameworks of control by elected civilian authorities.

Finally, the democratic governance perspective includes “seperating tasks between different services and institutions” to establish unambigious principles for the division of functions within the sector, especially between civilian and military spheres. In this sense we need to emphasize that democratic governance of the SSR promotes partnership, cooperation and mutual benefit.


Ever since 1999 Helsinki Summit extended candidate status to Turkey, the possibility of EU accession has become the main catalyst for democratic reforms in the SS. The ‘political criteria’ inscribed in the Accession Partnership Document (drawn up by the EU in 2000 and most recently revised and adopted in January 2006) and the Annual Reports on Turkey’s progress towards integration with the EU have suggested the need for structural changes in the organization of civil-military relations so as to enhance democratic governance in line with the EU's standards. This meant that the emphasis of the SSR agenda in Turkey has been on the “political” role of the military rather than the broader changes in the entirety of the security sector. Despite the progress made to align Turkey’s laws with the EU and despite the fact that accession negotiations were opened on 3 October 3 2005, 2005 Progress Report published by the EU Commission on 9 November 2005 notes that “since 2002, Turkey has made good progress in reforming CMRS… but the armed forces continue to exercise significant political influence… and Turkey should work towards greater accountability and transparency in the conduct of security affairs in line with member states’ “best practices”.’ The latest Annual Report of 8 November 2006 notes that “overall, limited progress has been made in aligning civil-military relations with EU practices… the civilian authorities should fully exercise their supervisory functions in particular as regards the formulation of the national security strategy and its implementation, including with regard to relations with neighbouring countries.”

The key specificity of the Turkish system is indeed the “guardian role” of the Armed Forces which can be defined as the long-term capacity of the military to define and redefine the canons of the regime -secularism being the most important one; identify its corporate existence with it; and support a long-term political order of the kind it cherishes even from behind the curtains. National Security Council (NSC) is the body which sustains the guardian functions in the public policy arena. Before being removed or revised gradually by legislative reforms, the “State of Emergency”, “State Security Courts”, and “Article 312” of the Penal Code were, in the last decade, critical agents in consolidating the primacy of national security concerns over democracy.

The Turkish example can help show that in some specific contexts where the ultimate justification for the political predominance of an army rests on its “guardianship” role, this role can shape the overall distribution of power within the security sector. Moreover, regime’s threat perceptions and its institutional and policy environment may be constructed to reproduce insecurity, security and defence in such a way as to serve the guardian role of the military. Under these conditions, a democratic reform agenda may not achieve substantive changes in the sector unless it gives primacy to changing the underlying sources of power imbalance in the sector. Unless there is a fundamental alteration in the civil-military balance first, nothing much can be achieved within the realm of individual security system services. This suggests that democratization as a check-list of institutional reform is not by itself a guarentee of effective democratic alterations in the SS if it does not address power disequilibrium in the sector. Rather than the hypothesis that that the SSR can take place as a subset of wider political reform and democracy-deepening, in some contexts where the guardian function of the military is a fundamental basis for its legitimacy, wider democratization should be regarded as a byproduct of SSR.

Distribution of power between civilian and military agencies since the last decade shows that Turkey’s definition of security has been more in military than non-military terms. The preponderance of the military in the sector is also related to the absence of clear demarcations of duty in the sector. Increasing preoccupation with internal threats coming from radical Islam and separatism –as perceived by the establishment- combined with the expansion of a military-dominated national security to encompass all aspects of life in the 1990s has led to overlapping authority structures, lack of cooperation and interagency competition in the sector between the police and the military forces. This situation provided an environment conducive to a strong rivalry between the two forces. While, there is an ongoing effort to reform the structural and functional deficiencies of the police force in Turkey, the burning question has been the absence of separation of internal/domestic from external/national security. Contemporary democratic principles dictate that domestic security is the responsibility of police and the defense of the country that of the military, the Turkish military has nonetheless historically been deployed for internal security roles.

Since the last decade, the General Command of the Gendarmarie (GCG) has expanded its scope of duties and increased its operational efficiency through the inclusion of a traffic and aviation unit, a criminology system, and an internal security agency within itself. Although it is authorized to perform duties in rural areas, in reality it has expanded its operations to the cities where the actual jurisdiction lies with the police. In addition, the gendarmerie has a dual-authority structure: while it is responsible to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and its provincial representatives for its functions of keeping peace and order; it is integrated with the General Staff Headquarters for promotions, training and performance of its military duties in times of State of Emergency, Martial Law and War. In peaceful times too, however, it seems to operate under the authority of its own command structure rather than the civilian authorities.


Two approaches have been employed in a combined manner to frame Turkey’s efforts to introduce principles of more accountability and democratic oversight in the SS: indirect and direct approaches. The indirect approach considers the problems in the management of SS as products of the absence of conditions for a broader democratic context and strives to democratize the entirety of the political system via legal and constitutional reforms. On the other hand, from 1998 onwards, specific annual reports published on Ankara’s accession progress, and the “political criteria” of the Accession Partnership Document of 2000, have suggested the need for a direct approach so as to produce a deeper, paradigmatic shift, an alteration in the fundamental rules of the game in organizing civil-military relations to enhance democratic civilian governance.

Indirect Approach

The indirect approach can be said to have targeted the empowerment of the civil society while the direct approach the political society/class. As part of the indirect approach, Turkish governments have enacted legislation, including comprehensive constitutional amendments in October 2001, February 2002, August 2002 and June 2003 to expand fundamental rights and freedoms and bring Turkey into line with EU requirements. Changes addressed a number of categories: freedom of expression and other basic rights; broadcasting in the Kurdish language; abolition of capital punishment; narrowing crimes against the state; termination of the state of emergency; and establishing retrial rights for citizens whose court decisions are overturned by the European Court of Human Rights. The indirect approach embodies the concept that by correcting, for example, Turkey’s torture and human rights record and by narrowing crimes against the state, civil society’s engagement with and participation in shaping security policies and their implementations would be enhanced; security sector’s political accountability would be improved and the military institution’s political role would be curtailed.

Real experience shows a variation in the outcome of the indirect approach: increasing political influence of civil society and broader democratization have reduced the autonomy of the security agencies and led to the removal of military from the centers of power in Philippines and Thailand. But in Indonesia, although democratic transformation has challenged the military’s political role, it has not brought profound changes in the SS’s behavior.

Direct Approach

The “direct” approach to reform in Turkey’s security system have targeted two areas: the first interest has been in affecting changes in the conception, preparation and formulation of national security policy in terms of incorporating more civilian input in it. Thus the focus is on the demystification of national security and the National Security Council. The second goal, however, is to end the “knowledge asymmetry” between civilian and military sectors on security, defense and strategy matters.

A threshold legislation regarding the first target is the August 2003 Democracy Package passed on 7 August 2003 and called the 7th Harmonization Legislation –bringing laws in harmony with the EU requirements--. It converted the NSC into an advisory body that would have little effective influence over national policy, repealed its executive powers which had overlapped or even superseded the executive branch and increased civilian members to a majority voting position. Therefore, this package can be said to have attempted to make a clean break with the past and change the civil-military power equation in civilian favour. Furthermore, new regulations governing the operations of the NSC announced by the 8th Harmonization Package of May 2004 introduced the principle of transparency into the workings of the NSC. With this legislation, the government further increased civilian oversight over the defense budget and removed military representatives from the Council on Higher Education and the Supreme Board of Radio and Television. It also abolished State Security Courts which were a legacy of the period after the 1980 military coup and which try crimes against the state.

The second focus of the direct approach has been on lessening the knowledge gap between the civilians and security community. This objective refers to the need for democratizing the “secrecy” surrounding defence and security issues and creating the conditions for the diffusion of specialized knowledge about the key institutions and policy issues of the security sector. A leading NGO, The Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (Turkish acronym TESEV) has single-handedly been playing a pioneering role since 2003 in sensitizing the public; creating a security-conscious community; and in establishing the norms and principles on the issues of the democratic governance and oversight of the security sector. Its line of activities cover publication of studies, reports, Almanacs; organizing conferences, workshops, book-launching meetings; and holding training seminars for target groups

Another attempt towards civilianization of the national security policy was made in the preparation of Turkey’s key national security document, the National Security Policy Document (NSPD) which is deemed to be “the secret constitution” of the country. Before it was accepted in October 2005, the current Islam-sensitive Justice and Development Government (JDP) tried to change the content and the formulation of the NSPD to align it with its EU-driven reforms and to end political Islamists being branded as internal security threats. All in all, its strategy towards this document has indicated an intention to civilianize and politicize security issues in a way rarely seen in the past. The Document came out in October 2005 retaining moreless the same same format and content as the previous one.


The global reshaping of the world after the Cold War has had two contradictory policy implications for most security systems in the world including Turkey’s: the implosion of internal security threats have encouraged the tendency for more security, less democracy and more vigilance on the part of the security institutions. Likewise, there has been an increase in laws pertaining to internal security, anti-terrorism, and the maintenance of public order. These laws criminalize certain political activities, constrain public debate, and expand military jurisdiction over civilians. However, at the same time, as a country trying to fulfill the conditions of integration with the EU, European political norms and values have stimulated reforms emphasizing principles of democratic governance in general and in the security sector.

There is a growing recognition regarding security sector reform in Turkey that the “guardian” role of the military is extremely difficult to reconcile with the conditions of integration with the EU. While the model requires that the army should retain the primary responsibility for defining threats and formulating security policy responses, the latter conditions stipulate that the definition and development of threats and defence and security policy should be under “the control of democratic authorities, and that the military should confine itself to implementing decisions made by those authorities.”

The conceptual overview and the practical experience of Turkey serve as reminders that essential values of transparency, accountability and democratic oversight of security institutions must be respected even in the face of effective security requirements against internal and external threats. This represents the democratic governance/ reform aspect which necessarily includes scaling down of the “political”influence of the security apparatus of a country, most notably that of the military institution’s.

Turkey 2002: Kemalism, Islamism, and Politics - South Atlantic Quarterly

Turkey 2002:

Kemalism, Islamism, and Politics in the Light of the February 28 Process

Ümit Cizre and Menderes Çınar



In the 1990s, Turkish politics witnessed the fragmentation of the political center and the rise of the Islamist Welfare Party (Refah Partisi, or RP) from fringe party to a major partner in the coalition government, Refahyol, it formed with the center-right True Path Party (Dogru Yol Partisi, or DYP) in June 1996. With the benefit of hindsight, one might suggest that the Turkish military took the accession of the RP into government as confirmation of its belief that Islamist reactionism, irtica in Turkish, had become a substantial threat to the secular character of the republic. Consequently, on February 28, 1997, the military-dominated National Security Council (NSC) issued the Refahyol coalition government with a list of measures designed to nullify the supposed Islamization of Turkey and fortify the secular system. Subsequent pressure from the NSC, in tandem with the civilian component of the secular establishment, led to the collapse of the coalition government in June 1997.

The ousting of the Refahyol government signaled the start of the military's plan to refashion Turkey's political landscape along Kemalist lines [End Page 309] without actually having to take over power directly. Hence, the phrase "February 28 process" was coined to indicate not only the far-reaching implications of the NSC decisions, but also the suspension of normal politics until the secular correction was completed. This process has profoundly altered the formulation of public policy and the relationship between state and society. No major element of Turkish politics at present can be understood without reference to the February 28 process.

This essay takes issue with three things. First, it seeks to unpack the rationale that underpins the February 28 process and critically assess its impact on Turkish politics and society. Next, it examines the way in which the February 28 process has afforded the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) even greater scope to influence public policy and to do so with virtually no oversight by the civilian constitutional authority. Finally, it addresses the ways in which political Islam has responded to the process.

Reconfiguring Politics

Since the inception of the republic, Kemalism has comprised its guiding vision. It is in essence a Westernizing/civilizing ideology whose incontrovertible maxims are secularism, understood as the separation of religion from political rule; a modern/Western identity and lifestyle; and the cultural homogeneity and territorial unity of the nation. Because the Kemalist Westernization project has relied more on symbols than substance, it has associated publicly visible instances of Islamic identity with reactionism. The ideology is also marked by a visible distaste for politics as a societal activity, and an ambivalent attitude toward the notion of popular legitimacy. Over time, it has been adjusted, at times stalled, but never abandoned or discontinued. Even if the TAF has at times deployed the Kemalist doctrine to suit its own agenda, its basic tenets have not lost their power of appeal and legitimacy both across classes and across the civilian-military divide.

Kemalism Redefined or Entrenched? The architects behind the February 28 process grounded their actions in the need to ensure the "continuity" of the basic assumptions of the Kemalist model. The Turkish military, former President Süleyman Demirel (1993–2000), the civil societal network of the secular establishment, media, and large sectors of the populace believe that Islamic reactionism constitutes the chronic, if at times undetectable, [End Page 310] [Begin Page 312] malaise of the Turkish polity. The former Chief of General Staff General Hüseyin Kıvrıkoglu expresses this sentiment: "Radical Islam may appear gone one day to reemerge the next day . . . it is not possible to say that the danger has vanished." 1 As a result, the secular establishment's natural reflex is to remain in a permanent state of alert. They also hold that by sticking to a "purist interpretation of the Kemalist bases of the republic," 2 civilian politics can be reconstructed so as to ensure continuity of the Kemalist regime and thereby accrue popular support for it.

Contrary to the "neorepublican" policies that prevailed after the post-1980 military rule when elements of Islam were incorporated into public discourse to provide a moral basis, ideological unity, and some certainty in the face of global capitalism, 3 the February 28 process seeks to usher back the republic's radical secularism. That represents a complete reversal from the republican pattern of state-Islam relations that, in the past, allowed for negotiation, compromise, and reconciliation between Turkey's political Islamists and the establishment. 4 This time, however, a string of drastic prosecular policy measures were introduced: All primary and secondary school curricula were altered so as to emphasize both the secularist history and character of the republic and the new security threats posed by political Islam and separatist movements. Teaching on Atatürkism was expanded to cover all courses taught at all levels and types of schools. 5 The secondary school system for prayer-leaders and preachers (imam hatip) was scrapped and an eight-year mandatory schooling system was introduced. Appointments of university chancellors since 1997 were pointedly made from among staunch Kemalists. Teaching programs on Kemalist principles, the struggle against reactionism, and national security issues were also extended to top bureaucrats and prayer leaders. 6 Finally, military institutions and personnel were actively involved in administering the programs.

If we add to these measures the closing of the Islamic parties and the banning of their key policy makers from active politics, it is clear that the architects of the process aim to ensure that the key political players toe the line—namely, comply with the need to both stabilize the rule of the original Kemalist project and revive the myth of a homogenous nation and society. The moralizing mentality that elevates a suprapolitical Kemalism and secularism to the level of a moral consensus of society is clearly exemplified by the deputy chief of general staff: "Countries that could not [End Page 312] create a common value system are by definition in a state of conflict. Our common value is secular and democratic Turkey within the framework of unitarianism and Atatürkist thought. All movements that do not meet with us on this common value are the enemies of the nation and country, and must be fought against." 7

The actual dynamics of the process, however, point at a compromise between a zero-sum understanding of Kemalism and the new realities on the ground. In its drive to reassert secularism, the establishment has run into two principal problems: the political resistance put up largely by the center-right Motherland Party (Anavatan Partisi, or ANAP), which has been part of all governments since June 1997, and the reforms required if Turkey's EU membership application is to be successful.

Because Tansu Çiller, the chairwoman of the DYP, had already been sidelined and the RP and its successors were clearly discredited and intimidated, Mesut Yılmaz, the chairman of the ANAP, emerged as the main opposition to the secular establishment's assessment and justification of the necessity and management of the struggle against irtica. The Center-Right's claim is that irtica, like the preceding communist and Kurdish questions, is a pretext to maintain the power, position, and large budget share of the TAF. In taking a critical stand against the TAF over who should fight against Islamic activism and how, Mesut Yılmaz as the prime minister (July 1997–January 1999) repeatedly expressed the view that irtica was not the number-one question for Turkey: "It is only if they (Islamists) rebel against the state authority that we would have to assign the task to the TAF." 8 This attitude implies that intervention is justified only if there is "clear and present danger," as opposed to the view that a preemptive strike is required against the possibility of Islamic dominance. Yılmaz, who ironically enough was favored by the secular establishment to unite the Center-Right as part of the combat against irtica, explicitly accused the high command of trying to reap political gains from the campaign against the Islamists. 9 Furthermore, he argued that he would act against assertions of Islamic identity publicly only on the basis of court verdicts rather than intelligence reports compiled by the military's working groups. 10 The underlying conundrum for the Center-Right has been the fear of hurting "genuinely devout Muslims," the conservative bedrock from which they draw their popular support. Their dilemma lies in the fact that the center-right tradition can neither embrace radical secular [End Page 313] policies, nor reject or ignore the secular state ideology. In other words, as Islam-as-culture is the most important icon of its claim to be "modern," this tradition simultaneously opposes both politicized Islam and radicalized secularism.

The Center-Right's challenge against the post–February 28 interpretation of secularism has created some political space to engage the secular establishment in an extended process of protest, warning, defiance, and sometimes cooperation and negotiation. The subsequent story of Turkish political life after 1997 can be said to be a constant stretching of the limits imposed by the February 28 process.

The other issue that has at least partly diluted the force of the war mentality against Islamic activism has been the support for Turkey's firm commitment to Westernize proffered by the Helsinki European Council's meeting on December 10–11, 1999. To stave off criticism from prodemocracy circles and the European Union (EU), in the official declaration of the historic NSC meeting on February 28, 1997, the high command justified the intervention by arguing that it upheld Turkey's commitment to full EU membership and presented secularism as "a guarantee not only for the regime but at the same time of democracy, societal peace and the modern lifestyle." 11 Moreover, pitting the rhetoric of "contemporariness" (a piece of imagery in Turkey that centers around the idea of being Westernlike) against the opposite imagery of "Islamic anachronism" is one way for Ankara to show its endorsement of Western values. In the post-Helsinki era, at least until the Kurdish insurgency was firmly under control, there was also a shift of discourse on the part of the military establishment from a rhetorical language denying violations of democratic norms to an "argumentative rationality" when engaged with its domestic and international critics over specific accusations of democratic deficiencies and human rights violations. 12 The argumentative discourse affirmed the democratic deficiency in Turkey's political landscape in terms of civil-military relations, individual rights, and the securitization of public life, but tried to justify them on the grounds that, as part of the military's combat against internal enemies, these measures were "exceptional" and "corrective," expressing some awareness of the importance of the democracy-centered security architecture in post–Cold War Europe.

However, as the high command is clearly in favor of a controlled entry into the EU, it has simultaneously adopted another discourse claiming that [End Page 314] democratic compromises required in order to join the EU would be too high a price to pay for a state committed to countering irtica and separatist terror. Thus, accession measures should be accepted only on condition that they do not inflame ethnic differences and provide a breeding ground for Islamic principles. The conservatizing impetus that has followed the September 11 attacks has introduced extra incentives for the Turkish general staff to move toward a more conservative-nationalist position with regard to Ankara's fulfillment of the EU's Copenhagen Criteria. Moreover, the high command is of the opinion that the EU is a bloc that displays a negative bias toward Turkey and will therefore not let her in. Tuncer Kilinc, secretary-general of the NSC, expressed his opinion in early March 2002 that "the EU will never accept Turkey. . . . Thus, Turkey needs new allies, and it would be useful if Turkey engages in a search that would include Russia and Iran." 13

Implementation: Shaping Turkish Politics. The protagonists of the February 28 intervention saw the roots of political Islam in the "irresponsible" policies of Turkey's political class that uses Islam for partisan purposes and [End Page 315] also in the division of the Center-Right into DYP and ANAP, which was regarded as obstructing the formation of strong, effective, and stable government. Therefore, foremost in their minds was a structural redesign to strengthen Turkey's political center so as to minimize the importance of what they considered the "noncentric" forces of political Islam and establish a center-party majority rule. This objective would be achieved by the bold use of state power to discipline representative institutions, forge the fragmented center around ANAP, and engage the judiciary in wresting control of political power from the RP and its successors by closing them down. In the end, there are two principal aspects of existing politics that can be attributed to the makings of the February 28 process. They are the crystallization of state-friendly features by almost all political persuasions and a pervasive sense of political inertia, both of which have exacerbated the weakness and instability of Turkey's civilian politics.

Gravitating toward the State. The principles that informed the February 28 process have exposed the state-dependent and state-defending characteristics of all representative platforms in Turkey. Turkey's Center-Left, as the founder of official republican politics, has always acted as a force fully complicit with the military-civil bureaucracy in subordinating politics and economics to the logic of secular state power. It has also been badly battered since the 1980s by being outflanked by the free-market rhetoric of the New Right. When it gradually embraced the same agenda rather than articulating welfare-state policies, it lent respectability to neoliberalism. Not surprisingly, since the 1997 intervention, the two center-left parties, the Democratic Left Party (Demokratik Sol Parti, or DSP) of Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit and the Republican People's Party (Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi, or CHP) have acted as the agents and defenders of the reconsolidation of nation-state behind the totalizing language of secularism.

Turkey's Center-Right, which also comes from a tradition articulating rural and urban interests that seemingly oppose puritan Kemalism, has gravitated toward a state-centered discourse. This is so because the political discourse of this tradition was built on an ambiguous and fuzzy set of principles encompassing political, economic, and religious liberalism. 14 Those principles allowed the Center-Right to satisfy its power base through the distribution of state largesse while paying lip service to liberal values. The DYP's problems with the February 28 process were over the party's loss [End Page 316] of power and relegation to the sidelines, rather than based on an ethically motivated opposition to the intervention. The ANAP, locus of power in the 1980s, upheld the free-market ideology without seeing any contradiction between supporting the state-imposed political design of the February 28 process and political and economic liberalism. It was only when the party's alignment with the process was observed to be causing a major electoral slide for the party that it became the major challenger to the new political design.

Since February 28, 1997, Turkish political parties have retreated from a constituency-serving position to a state-supporting one. Neither the rising star of Turkish politics in the 1990s, the nationalist camp represented by the Nationalist Movement Party (Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi, or MHP), nor the Islamists can claim to have articulated an alternative democratic political platform that can act as "the significant other." The nationalist MHP and the Islamist parties have failed to formulate a solid political bedrock from which to constructively oppose the moral consensus laid down by the February 28 process. Hence, EU accession has become the only instrumental issue with the power to compel progressive change in the country. [End Page 317]

The Politics of Inertia. Despite the vast changes in political, social, economic, and geopolitical realities, the thrust of politics has stagnated since February 28, 1997. The current three-party coalition government comprising the center-right ANAP, the center-left DSP, and the nationalist MHP has been in office longer than any coalition in Turkish history. But the government does not owe its durability to imaginative politics, empathy with the fears and hopes of the masses, and its outward-looking, competitive drive for power. On the contrary, it owes its durability to a new version of the politics of inertia, or bloc-politics, which is promoted by domestic and international business circles to bring stability and inspire confidence in the markets. The core bloc of the government, comprised of ANAP and DSP, first emerged as an alternative to the Refahyol coalition government in 1997. With the inclusion of the conservative-nationalist MHP after it emerged as the second largest party in the April 1999 elections, it was thought that this bloc would bring some stability into politics. The formation and survival of this bloc have also been facilitated by the decline of the Turkish Left as well as by the tacit understanding that there is a de facto military veto against any prospective governments where DYP and RP and their successors can participate.

Given that the bloc politics is basically due to the failure of Turkey's political persuasions, be it on the left or right, to articulate any pattern of thought other than that of defending the status quo, the troika stays in power because it is a government by default. That it stays despite its policy failures—culminating in the most serious economic crash in the history of the republic on February 21, 2001, which effectively forced the government to seek a massive new standby emergency aid package from the International Monetary Fund (thus saddling the Turkish taxpayer with even further international debt)—is a sign of the absence of political synergy or a credible parliamentary alternative, and the officials' abject disregard for the concerns of those they represent.

Moreover, in the absence of a tradition of resigning from public office, Prime Minister Ecevit's refusal to step down, despite his deteriorating health and massive defections from his party in the summer of 2002, plunged the country into a state of political uncertainty. 15 The government could survive only by calling for early elections on November 3, 2002. The EU-required political reforms, necessary to start accession negotiations by the end of this year to qualify Turkey for full membership, could be passed [End Page 318] only thanks to the last-minute initiative of the ANAP, itself desperate to institute the reforms for the elections and thereby avoid political extinction.

It would not be wrong to suggest that the pervasive sense of political inertia in the country and the absence of serious challenges to the extant hierarchy of power is largely a function of a trend in evidence since February 28, 1997, namely, the urge to secure the country against potential threats to the Kemalist doctrine. That outlook has led to the closure of public debate on key issues and caused the existing political class to subcontract the resolution of crucial problems to the civil-military bureaucracy. 16 One writer, in referring to the dominance of the security-first outlook, speaks of a "dual-track government," in which there is a certain division of labor between the TAF and the representative institutions: "It is not that the military has assumed the power of governing; rather, they have set much of the contentious political agenda and then put pressure on the government to enact it. The power of the military (exerted through the NSC) has, in the past two years, increasingly encroached on areas traditionally . . . the prerogative of the nation's elected civilian leaders." 17 Without formally governing, the military's behind-the-scenes maneuvering has successfully managed, perhaps unintentionally, to snuff out any meaningful space for democratic debate and carefully considered renewal.

All in all, the post–February 28 political design has been implemented only to a limited extent, mainly because the problems of political Islam and a fragmented center are seen from a rather mechanical prism and regarded as being alterable by manipulating the technical rules of the game that organize political life. The new model also aimed at promoting stability by enhancing discipline and authority in the public sphere rather than promoting regime capabilities through more effective governance, political legitimacy, and expanded democracy. Considerations of connections between the transformative effects of market policies specific to the countries of the near-periphery and their effect on the empowerment of political Islam are absent. Furthermore, as the "creeping Islamization of Turkey" is attributed to the strategies of irresponsible, weak, inefficient political agents, politics is understood as needing a dose of moral injection in terms of framing public interest as the triumph of the "good" forces against "evil," the victory of secularism against the creeping threat of the Islamization/feudalization of life. The question to address therefore is whether the February 28 process, in steering civilian politics in a particular [End Page 319] direction to strengthen center politics and keep Islamic parties out of power, has perilously enhanced the weakness of civilian politics in Turkey.

TAF As Guardians

The Turkish constitutions have not openly proclaimed any guardianship role for the military. However, the esteem with which the military has historically been held and the broad definition of what constitutes a security issue and who defines it 18 means that the realm of influence of TAF goes significantly beyond its counterparts in other democratic societies. It is "not only a professional military organization but a core element of Turkey's political system," 19 enjoying a high degree of political and institutional autonomy. 20 Backed by that mantle of authority, it is well positioned to pursue its historically mandated guardianship role, a mandate that effectively provides the military with an "ideal for following a political agenda of its own." 21

In the 1990s, the TAF has expanded its domain of jurisdiction by redefining the idea of national security. 22 By identifying Islamic and Kurdish groups as potential internal enemies, it is effectively able to control the public [End Page 320] agenda. In doing this, it takes advantage of the privileged powers and position that it has by virtue of its role within the NSC. 23 Hence, the extent of the TAF's influence over public policy has increased, while at the same time the ability of civilians to correct the imbalance in civil-military relations has decreased. Given that the magnitude of the Islamic threat is perceived to be potentially present in all parts of the country and in all sectors of society, national security considerations are now enshrined in legislation on antiterrorism, media, public order, political parties, education, civil rights, and liberties. The insertion of national security concerns into public policy has significantly altered the meaning of democracy in Turkey by subordinating individual and group rights and liberties to the demands of security. The endorsement of Turkey's candidate status in the Helsinki Summit in 1999, however, acts as the main driving force behind the parliamentary initiative to either modify or repeal the draconian features of national security laws and practices.

Perhaps the most disturbing concern is that what qualifies as an internal defense threat is defined by the military itself. The military sets the standards for measuring and judging the Islamic threat as a life or death question and has created new organizational devices to combat it. 24 Especially after the 1995 elections, the TAF has been involved in making and breaking governments, initiating crucial policy decisions, becoming directly involved in political intrigue, issuing public demands and warnings to civilians, structuring new bills through its own research units and departments, launching campaigns to inform the public about the possibility that political Islam might be acting as cover for reactionary intentions, having the final say on whether or not the 1999 elections would be held, shaping foreign policy, and continuously impinging on the daily operations of elected governments.

Consequently, the military is more exposed to charges of partisanship and is more vulnerable to criticisms. Given the fact that the military's traditional "most trusted institution" status was based on its image of being "above politics," one could argue that by remaining in the political arena it weakens the very foundations of its own strength. The increasing intolerance of the military for any criticism or alternative views, which we can observe in the frequency with which the institution responds to what it considers counterpositions taken by public figures, reflects its increasing sense of insecurity about its status. It is perhaps for this reason that the military [End Page 321] aims to construct its own support base by acting like a political party directly addressing the public. However, this strategy feeds back into the weakening of the military's carefully nurtured "above politics" image.

A major element of rupture with the past is the way the military's priority has shifted from invoking societal indifference and fear to producing consent and support. In trying to undermine the RP's popular appeal and create an order characterized by social discipline, centralized authority, and hierarchical integration, the military has been very successful in establishing a new relationship with targeted groups in society. It has appealed directly to the organized groups of the modernized urban-secular sectors—the business world, media, academia, public prosecutors, judges, leaders of civil societal associations—and even held briefing meetings with them to warn of the extent and magnitude of the Islamic threat. The rising salience of civil society for the general staff, however, has not arisen from the search for a free public space, rule of law, limited state power, democratic consensus and compromise over power sharing. On the contrary, there is a widespread belief among the secular-urbanites that the intensity of the Islamic threat may require the suspension of democratic freedoms and limitation of representative principles and institutions. To this end, these sectors have given the TAF a strong hand in crushing what they see as a threat to the regime's existence.

Islamist Politics:

Division, Adaptation, and Change

Thus far we have discussed the nature of the February 28 process, the way in which it modified the political landscape, and the way it signaled the military's appropriation of civilian policy making. However, we have yet to consider the way in which the process affected those who were its explicit target, as well as the ways in which they reacted to it. The main target of the process, the RP, was founded in July 1983 as the third political party of the Islamist National Outlook Movement (Milli Gorus Hareketi, or MGH), the expression of Islamism in the political arena since 1970. It was closed down by the Constitutional Court on January 16, 1998, on the grounds that it had become a focal point of antisecular activities. With this closure, a five-year ban on the political activities of its leader, Necmettin Erbakan, and five other top policy makers was imposed. The RP was succeeded by the Virtue Party (Fazilet Partisi, or FP, founded in December 1997), again closed down on June 22, 2001, for its antisecular activities and [End Page 322] for violating the constitutional stipulation that a permanently closed party, the RP, cannot be opened again. Although the FP claimed to be a different party than the RP and tried to follow a different political style, until its closure it too was under the questioning eyes of the secularist establishment of Turkey, which charged it with being the new flag bearer of the RP and disguising its reactionary nature from the public. 25

What has been the impact of this intimidation on political Islam? The question cannot be answered adequately without reference to the division of the movement into the reformist and traditionalist factions. 26 The ban imposed on Erbakan, the founder of the MGH and its authority figure, enabled the FP to break free from his direct influence and enabled the reformists to publicize their discontent with the policies of the traditionalists. 27 The movement was eventually divided into two parties after the closure of the FP: the traditionalists' Felicity Party (Saadet Partisi, or SP, founded on July 20, 2001) and the reformists' AKP, founded on August 14, 2001. In what follows we will delineate and discuss the different readings of the February 28 process as reflected by each faction's preferred policies and political styles.

The Traditionalist Wing: Paying Lip Service to Kemalism and Democracy? In terms of their politics, both the RP and the FP tried to adapt themselves to the February 28 process conditions by de-Islamizing their discourse, emphasizing a discourse that avoided any societal tensions, and taking a low-profile, nonconfrontational, and moderate stance. On the basis of what he called "unripe and transitory" conditions, Erbakan rejected the RP's provincial leaders' demands for a strong opposition against the crackdown of the February 28 process. 28 Its successor party, FP, also employed a consensus-seeking strategy, expressing no discontent over the undemocratic nature of the crackdown on Islamic identity. Its leader, Recai Kutan, for example, went as far as declaring that "they will not be a party to any conflict" 29 and that "they will not bring up the issue of the headscarf even though it is the right thing to do so." 30 He even lent some legitimacy to the February 28 process by indicating that they understand the TAF's sensitivity on secularism. 31 It must be pointed out that this obedient stance was motivated by the FP's massive sense of insecurity—so much so that on that particular point, the party even asked the opinion of the chief of staff about its political program. 32

The FP's acquiescence was redressed by a discourse endorsing democracy [End Page 323] [Begin Page 325] and the idea of a "nonideological state" as the basic principles of the modern world. "We know," Kutan stated, "what it is like to be threatened, blackmailed, silenced," and "therefore no one could value democracy better than us." 33 Before the February 28 process, the Islamist movement saw the false consciousness of the Westernizing elite as Turkey's basic problem. This elite, it was argued, prevented people's moral development, which was the prerequisite of economic development and democracy. Erbakan and his team did not question the nonpluralist form of state-society relations, but singled out only the secularist substance of it as a focus of criticism. Moreover, Erbakan's RP claimed that the MGH represented the true national will of the whole society and appealed to the majoritarian principle to support that conclusion. The RP, therefore, seemed to be willing to utilize the Kemalist legal and political framework, which was instituted to enforce a Western lifestyle by the republican regime, to switch the secular bias of a nonpluralist state-society relationship to one that was Islamic. 34 Hence, for example, the idea of making Friday a holiday—as is the case in Islamic societies—was defended not in terms of the right of believers to practice Islam in a democratic context, but rather in terms of the fulfillment of the state's legal duty to provide religious services within the framework of secularism as drawn by Atatürk. 35 Consequently, it was not unthinkable for the secular Turkish public to conceive that the RP posed a threat to their lifestyle.

Although the FP endorsed the idea of a nonideological state, it still maintained its predecessor's nonpluralist understanding of society. For example, in one of his visits to EU authorities in Brussels, the FP's pro-Erbakan leader, Kutan, denied that there is a Kurdish problem in Turkey. 36 When, on rare occasions, the existence of the Kurdish problem was acknowledged, the FP's alternative was little more than to uphold the solution once proposed by the RP: relying on the assumption that the real source of identity is Islam, the suggested solution was to strengthen the national and moral values by relaxing the pressures on religion so as to maintain the "community," rather than a democratic-pluralist restructuring. 37 Consequently, the FP's understanding of democracy was self-servingly restricted to legal and constitutional amendments that would make the closure of the parties difficult and remove the ban on Erbakan's political activities. As a corollary, instead of pressing for institutional and noninstitutional changes that would make the state nonideological, which was the FP's declared priority, [End Page 325] the FP used democracy as a window dressing to endear itself to the public in a democracy-dominated age.

According to a distinguished former deputy of the RP, Aydın Menderes, the traditionalists not only lack the ability to carry out radical reforms in the party, but also seem willing to return to the substance and style of politics they conducted in the RP whenever the grip of the February 28 process relaxes. 38 Indeed, both Erbakan and Kutan, after the closure of their parties, asserted that they will not change their political stance and ideals, which they believed were correct. The traditionalists' current political party, the SP, not unexpectedly adopts a course of return to the basic tenets of the RP's discourse in a somewhat modified manner.

Lessons the Reformists Drew from the Past. The reformist faction, which eventually formed the AKP under the leadership of the prominent ex-mayor of Istanbul, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, reads the February 28 process and the RP's role in the making of it somewhat differently. Unlike the traditionalists, the reformists are (self-)critical of the political style and policies of the RP, which, they believe, contributed to the February 28 process with its political mistakes. 39 For them, the RP's policies reached an impasse because it let religious issues dominate its political agenda, it underplayed the importance of consensus-seeking and dialogue-building with the other sectors of the society, and it did not address itself to a broader public. 40 As such, the reformist group's moderate discourse seemed to spring from the recognition of the heterogeneous nature of the society. Another conclusion the reformists have drawn from the Refahyol experience is the need to acknowledge the guardianship role of the military in Turkey, which, they considered, should be taken into account as a historical reality. "If we are to be realistic," a leading reformist said, "we should not come up against and clash with the military." 41

The reformists' stated goal was to establish a party that would refrain from employing a rhetorical discourse, would not restrict its political horizon to Islamic issues, would pay special attention to pluralism by building a dialogue with non-Islamist sectors of the society, and would be predictable, dynamic, and open to change, with no hidden agenda on critical issues. 42 In wanting to bring about the transformation of Islamism, they tried to eliminate what they saw as the root cause of the maladies of the RP, namely the lack of intraparty democracy, self-criticism, and transparency. 43 [End Page 326]

The reformist AKP persistently rejects being Islamist, defines itself as a conservative democratic party, and emphasizes the democratic character of the party organization, its spirit of teamwork, and the importance of consensus-seeking in politics. But since for Erdogan, politics by definition should take up popular issues and demands related to religious life, the AKP's moderation does not mean that it will not bring religious issues to the political arena, 44 especially when the AKP's intention to broaden its support base without alienating the traditional constituency of the Islamist movement is taken into account. Hence, for example, it aims to raise the issue of the ban on the wearing of headscarves in educational institutions in the political arena as a matter of basic rights, but not as an issue of religion or religiosity. The AKP cites its attempt to address itself to a broader public while taking up the issues related to public visibility of Islamic identity as evidence of its will to reconcile secularism and Islam through a pluralist public sphere in Turkey. Turkey's secularist establishment, they believe, will respect moderate religiosity in a pro-Islamic party if it refrains from employing a rhetorical discourse and if it maintains a transparent political agenda. [End Page 327]

Despite some doubts, 45 legal pressures, and ambiguities concerning Erdogan's eligibility to be elected as a member of parliament, 46 according to almost all opinion polls, the AKP is the most popular party in Turkey. Admittedly, this is due to the AKP's capitalization on the political vacuum created by the immobility of Turkey's existing political contenders. In doing so, the AKP promises a government that will not sacrifice the system's stability and development merely for the sake of acquiring political benefits. In a context in which corruption is rampant and the economy is in severe crisis, such a discourse is appealing. Nevertheless, as it is a promise of "performance" and not a societal vision in which Islam and secularism can be reconciled, such a discourse is more technocratic than political in its outlook.


The political language of the February 28 process presents itself in the form of an ambiguous double discourse. This represents the crisis of epistemology in Kemalist thought. On the one hand, it is correct to say that the central element in the February 28 strategy is the subordination of the present to the past, politics to the market, individual to the wisdom and moral guardianship of the secular establishment, and sociopolitical differences to unity and uniformity. Yet both the establishment and the actors of political Islam, in the process, appropriate a language of holding themselves up as believers in "democracy." Given that the iron rule of Turkish politics is that the practice of democracy is not permitted to have a hallow content but must be rooted in a secular existence, this is hardly surprising. Nor can the logic of power based on the belief that "the confession of secularism is identical with democratic conviction" 47 be sustained in modern global circumstances in a country struggling to obtain EU membership. Likewise, political Islam provides the mirror image of Kemalism in terms of its conception of democracy not as a hallow notion, but as a totalizing and restrictive sense.


Ümit Cizre is an associate professor at Bilkent University, Ankara. She is a former Fulbright Research Scholar (Princeton University) and Jean Monnet Research Fellow (RSC, European University Institute, Florence). Most recently she has published "The Military and Politics: A Turkish Dilemma," in Middle Eastern Armies: Politics and Strategy, ed. Barry Rubin and Thomas Keaney (2002); "Turkey's Kurdish Problem: A Critical Analysis of Boundaries, Identity and Hegemony," in Rightsizing the State, ed. Ian Lustick (2002); and "The Truth and Fiction about Turkey's Human Rights Politics," Human Rights Review, no. 3 (October–December 2001).

Menderes Çınar is an assistant professor of political science in the Department of Political Science and International Relations, Baskent University, Ankara. His main research interests are political Islam and the republican political tradition. He has most recently published a theoretical discussion of Islamism as a "political" question in Totalitarian Movements and Public Religions (2002). His forthcoming book, Kemalist Republicanism and Islamist Kemalism: Reproductions of Anti-Politics in Turkey, will be published in Turkish.


1. "Kıvrıkoglu: Sinsi Irtica" [Kıvrıkoglu: Sinister reactionism], Radikal, June 14, 2001.

2. Heinz Kramer, A Changing Turkey, the Challenge to Europe and the United States (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2000), 71. [End Page 328]

3. Faruk Birtek and Binnaz Toprak, "The Conflictual Agendas of Neo-Liberal Reconstruction and the Rise of Islamic Politics in Turkey," Praxis International 13.2 (1993): 192–212.

4. Ümit Cizre Sakallıoglu, "Parameters and Strategies of Islam-State Interaction in Republican Turkey," International Journal of Middle East Studies 28 (1996): 231–51.

5. "Atatürkçülük Her Derste Okutulacak" [Atatürkism is going to be taught in all courses], Hurriyet, June 27, 1998.

6. "Yönetici Memura Inkilap Tarihi Dersi" [History of the republic course (given) to top bureaucrats], Milliyet, December 12, 1995.

7. "GATA Açılısında Laiklik Uyarısı" [Secularism warning in the opening ceremony of GATA (Gülhane Military Medicine Academy)], Radikal, October 2, 2001.

8. "Yılmaz'dan Askere Sınır" [Yılmaz constrains the officers], Radikal, July 11, 1998.

9. "Hükümetin Zor Günleri" [Hard days for the government], Milliyet, March 14, 1998.

10. "Yılmaz: Komutanların Hakkıdır" [Yılmaz: It is the right of the commanders], Sabah, March 21, 1998.

11. Muzaffer Sahin, MGK, 28 Subat Öncesi ve Sonrası [NSC, before and after February 28] (Ankara: Ufuk Kitabevi, 1998), 77.

12. We borrow the idea that at one stage of internalization of human rights norms, there is a move from "rhetorical discourse" to an "argumentative rationality," from Thomas Risse and Kathryn Sikkink. The significant component in this move is that the logic of argumentation over human rights violations in public entraps the political class in its own rhetoric, enabling them to move toward a true dialogue. See Thomas Risse and Kathryn Sikkink, "The Socialization of International Human Rights Norms into Domestic Practices: Introduction," in The Power of Human Rights, International Norms and Domestic Change, ed. Thomas Risse, Stephen C. Ropp, and Kathryn Sikkink (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 2–3.

13. Jon Gorvett, "Turkish Military Fires Warning Shot over EU Membership," Middle East, no. 323 (2002): 33.

14. Ümit Cizre, "Liberalism, Democracy and the Turkish Center-Right: The Identity Crisis of the True Path Party," Middle Eastern Studies 32.2 (1996): 142–61; and Ümit Cizre, "From Ruler to Pariah: The Life and Times of True Path Party," in Political Parties in Turkey, ed. Barry Rubin and Metin Heper (London: Frank Cass, 2002), 82–101.

15. The political crisis deepened when Foreign Minister Ismail Cem, six other ministers, and about seventy defected deputies left Ecevit's party to launch a new party on July 12, 2002, in defiance of Ecevit's refusal to step aside and name a successor. Kemal Dervis, the former minister of state and the overseer of the ongoing IMF-designed stabilization program, was expected to join in the new movement, which later became the New Turkey Party. Until Dervis's declaration in mid-August 2002 that he would not join the New Turkey Party, the initiative was hailed by Turkey's secular establishment and business and international circles as potentially capable of stemming the tide of the Islamic Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, or AKP) and speeding up the process of starting Turkey's accession talks with the EU.

16. Menderes Çınar, "Mission Impossible?" Private View 2–5 (1997): 72–78.

17. Heath W. Lowry, "Turkey's Political Structure on the Cusp of the Twenty-First Century," [End Page 329] in Turkey's Transformation and American Policy, ed. Morton Abramowitz (New York: Century Foundation Press, 2000), 48.

18. The chief example is Act No. 2945 on the NSC and the National Security Council General Secretariat, which assigns significant and broad political powers to the NSC, placing it on par with the executive.

19. See Kramer, A Changing Turkey, 30.

20. Ümit Cizre Sakallıoglu, "The Anatomy of the Turkish Military's Political Autonomy," Comparative Politics 29.2 (1997): 153.

21. Kramer, A Changing Turkey, 30.

22. On April 29, 1997, the Turkish General Staff announced a radical change in their basic doctrine (the National Military Defense Concept). Henceforth priority would be given to combating internal threats from, primarily, Islamic activism and, secondarily, the Kurdish separatism, rather than safeguarding against interstate wars and external threats. This new document replaced the one formulated on November 18, 1992, singling out Kurdish terrorist acts as the primary security threat to the state. Both documents were prepared by the secretariat of the NSC and became governmental policy. The parliament was not fully informed about this decision. The defeat inflicted on the PKK by the capture, arrest, trial, and conviction of its leader, Abdullah Öcalan, reinforced this shift.

23. Article 35 of the Military Internal Service Code assigns the military the task of safeguarding the territorial unity and the republic itself. Furthermore, Act No. 2945 assigns three important functions to the NSC secretariat, which enables it to act like the council of ministers. First, the secretary (a general) has the authority to prepare the agenda of the meetings. Next, he is authorized to follow up the implementations of the decisions reached in the NSC meetings and passed to the ministers to act upon with priority consideration. Finally, the secretary can present his suggestions on domestic and foreign policy to the council of ministers directly.

24. A new unit called the Western Study Group (Batı Çalısma Grubu, or BCG) was instituted within general staff headquarters to collect information about the political orientations of civil society groups, mayors, governors, government employees, political party cadres, and media personalities. Moreover, by a governmental decree published in the official gazette on January 9, 1997, a new organ called the Prime Ministerial Crisis Management Center (Basbakanlık Kriz Yönetim Merkezi) was formed within the NSC secretariat to observe and report on "crises," a vaguely defined term in the decree, and formulate responses to them. As the center was placed within the NSC but called "Prime Ministerial," it had an ambiguous structural and functional position. It bypassed parliamentary control of its activities and was seemingly responsible to the prime minister but was, in reality, answerable only to the NSC.

25. When the Constitutional Court was handling the closure case filed against the FP, the military issued a judgmental statement that the FP is a source of reactionism, indicating the direction that the case would follow. Before April 1999 general elections, the then-president of the republic, Süleyman Demirel, also equated the FP with the RP.

26. The reformist group constituted usually the younger generation of the MGH such as Abdullatif Sener, Salih Kapusuz, Abdullah Gül, and their leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan. [End Page 330] Bulent Arınç, who has been in the movement ever since its inception, was with the reformists as well as the newcomers to FP such as Ali Coskun, Abdulkadir Aksu, and Cemil Çiçek, all from the conservative wing of the ANAP. The traditionalists, on the other hand, included the leader of the FP, Recai Kutan, as well as the top administrative officials of the party such as Bahri Zengin, Veysel Candan, and Oguzhan Asilturk.

27. Hence, the first convention of the FP, held on May 14, 2000, was also the first competitive convention in the whole history of the MGH. In this convention, despite Erbakan's disapproval, the reformist faction challenged the traditionalist leadership of the party and lost by only a small margin, which is usually taken as evidence that Erbakan's moral authority over the movement was no longer intact.

28. "Refah Örgütünde Çiller Tepkisi" [Çiller reaction in the rank-and-file of the Refah], Milliyet, October 27, 1997.

29. "Kutan'dan ‘Kavga Yok' Sözü" [Kutan promises "no fight"], Hürriyet, February 11, 1999.

30. "Tansu Bize Gelecek 3: Türbanda Dikkatliyiz" [Tansu will join us 3: We are careful about headscarf], Hurriyet, February 8, 1999.

31. Bilal Çetin, "Kutan'dan FP'nin ‘Sistem Partisi' Olduguna Inandırma Çabası" [Kutan's attempt to convince that the FP is a ‘systemic party'], Radikal, February 11, 1999. This acquiscent stance does not really represent a radical break from the past, when we bear in mind that the main actors of this tradition considered the military the biggest defender and guardian of democracy in Turkey, denied the obvious role of the military in the making of the February 28 process, and refrained from publicizing or precluding the operations of the BCG, which gathered the intelligence that made the process possible in the first place.

32. "Enine Boyuna Fazilet 2: 28 Subat Ayni Siddetle Devam Etmiyor" [Comprehensive virtue 2: February 28 process is not continuing with the same momentum], Sabah, March 28, 1999.

33. Recai Kutan, "Birinci Olagan Kongre Açılıs Konusması" [First convention opening speech], May 14, 2000, ASKI Sports Hall (Ankara: [n.p.], 2000), 12.

34. For a detailed analysis of the RP's politics and vision of state-society relationship, see Menderes Çınar, "From Shadow-Boxing to Critical Understanding: Some Theoretical Notes on Islamism as a ‘Political Question,'" Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions 3.1 (2002): 35–57.

35. See Süleyman Arif Emre, "Atatürk'ün Çizdigi Laiklik Çerçevesi" [The framework of secularism as drawn by Atatürk], Milli Gazete, February 8, 1997.

36. See Bilal Çetin, "Anlamlı Randevu" [A meaningful appointment], Yeni Safak, September 29, 2000.

37. Abdullah Karakus, "Kutan: Türk-Kürt Ayrımı Yapılmıyor" [Kutan: There is no differentiation between Kurds and Turks], Milliyet, March 20, 2000. For a detailed study of the Islamist movement's approach to the Kurdish question, see Burhanettin Duran, "Approaching the Kurdish Question via Adil Duzen: An Islamist Formula of the Welfare Party for Ethnic Coexistence," Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs 18.1 (1998): 111–28.

38. Aydın Menderes, interview by Mustafa Karaalioglu, "Önce Refah Mezara Girdi" [First the RP was buried], Yeni Safak, November 6, 2000; Aydın Menderes, interview by [End Page 331] Naki Özkan, "Erbakan'in Son Kullanma Tarihi Geçti" [Erbakan's expiration date is past], Milliyet, November 8, 2000.

39. "Erbakan'a Gül Dikeni" [Gül (rose) thorn to Erbakan], Radikal, January 22, 1998; "Abdullah Gül: Hatalarımız Oldu" [Abdullah Gül: We have made mistakes], Zaman, August 30, 1998.

40. Bulent Arinc, interview by Nilgun Cerrahoglu, "Libya Gezisi Bir Felaketti" [Visit to Libya was a disaster], Milliyet, February 22, 1998; Bulent Arinc, interview by Kemal Can, "Refah Partisini Ozlemiyoruz" [We do not miss the RP], ArtiHaber, June 20–26, 1998, 54–55.

41. Bülent Arınç, interview by Mehmet Gündem, "Askerle Polemik Hataydi" [Polemic with the military was a mistake], Zaman, February 6, 2000.

42. Bülent Arınç, interview by Yurdagül Erkoca, "FP"li Arınç Büyük Konustu" [Arınç spoke rigorously], Radikal, May 25, 1998; Abdullah Gül, interview by Nese Düzel, "Ben 28 Subatı Imzalamazdım" [I would not have signed the February 28 decisions], Radikal, June 5, 2000.

43. Abdullah Gül, interview by Rusen Çakır, "Seriatçılar Marjinal" [Reactionists are marginal], Milliyet, February 9, 2000.

44. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, interview by Eyüp Can, "Seriat Devletini Ciddiye Almıyorum" [I do not take a Sharia state seriously], Zaman, February 6, 2000.

45. For example, the current president of the republic, Ahmet Necdet Sezer, drew Erdogan's attention to the Constitutional Court's sensitivity on secularism and equated his demand for "a state that respects religion" with "a state based on religion." See "Sezer'den Erdogan'a Rejim Uyarisi" [Sezer warns Erdogan on regime], Cumhuriyet, December 5, 2001.

46. Although he benefited from a law that postponed the penalties of December 2000, Erdogan's position as the chairman of the party as well as his eligibility to be elected and to be prime minister remain legally ambiguous. This is so because in January 2002, the Constitutional Court upheld the charge of the Chief Public Prosecutor of High Court of Appeals that Erdogan could not be a founding member, and therefore not the chairman of the AKP, because of his previous conviction for inciting religious hatred. The court ordered the AKP to comply with its decision within six months. The implications of this decision have divided lawyers. Whether he can lead a party and stand as a candidate for the parliament in the elections is still not clear.

47. Kramer, A Changing Turkey, 87.