In trying times, brothers need each other. Whether we are dealing with a financial struggle, family issues or simply feeling down, we turn to those who are closest to us, our siblings. This is also true for nations, on a much grander scale. Turkish soldiers (one of whom was my father’s cousin) sacrificed their lives to prevent communist oppression, only to discover how close they were to their long-lost brothers.
March 31 will be a new beginning, as many politicians in Turkey keep saying these days. The key event is the mayoral elections that will take place on Sunday, March 30. You read correctly. Though they are just local elections they are expected to be incredibly dramatic.
One must be familiar with the events in Turkey during the past several months to understand why this election is more important than it should be. First, there was the Dec. 17 raid that took in sons of powerful ministers of the Turkish government who were charged of corruption in the tens of millions of dollars. The revelations by the prosecution revealed even more cases of corruption, potentially creating an international crisis, as evidently the embargo on Iranian banks and companies was breached at the level of billions of dollars under the protection of members of the Turkish government.
Then there was the second raid, on Dec. 25, which couldn’t take place because the police were ordered to stand down and disobey the prosecution’s order to detain the suspects. The shocked Turkish citizens would later learn, through leaked legal documents, that the prime suspect was none other than the youngest son of the prime minister, Bilal Erdogan.
The turmoil only grew through massive firings of police chiefs and members of the judiciary, who the prime minister called “part of a conspiracy” by a “parallel state.” Many were left in the dark, however, only to question why the prime minister stopped the investigation from going any further. The harsh public statements and threats to whomever dares to question “his ministers” only helped convict him in the eyes of many Turks. Soon, this whole ordeal was escalated into a matter of life and death for the ruling party, AKP, despite the fact that the only successful investigation on Dec. 17 involved just four ministers, who later resigned from their posts.
From the outset, it may seem to be a temporary political matter. But the “matter” has polarized Turkish people to the point that they openly tell each other to go to hell for just thinking differently from each other. And even more problematic is that whenever the Turkish public has become divided into such camps, military interventions have occurred. Not just once, but five times. We all know what a military takeover means. All functions of a stable democracy get scrapped only to take another decade or two to rebuild.
Turkey is now struggling to preserve its achievements in both democracy and economic stability, in the volatile Middle East. The unpredictable outcome of this internal unrest may affect many people in the region, who until recently looked to the “Turkish model” as an example to follow. Hopefully, the mayoral election will calm down the tensions, though this will largely depend on how the prime minister reacts. Unfortunately, he repeatedly announced that he would “crack down” on all people whom he thinks have dared to question him or his ministers. It is far from likely that Turkey will return to stability anytime soon.
This is the time when Turkey needs its true brother. Korea has a moral obligation to call the Turkish politicians to their senses, as true brothers would do. There is much at stake and Korea is one of the few countries that can truly speak to the hearts of the Turkish people. A calm, democratic and prosperous Turkey is at the best interest of all Korean people.
By Cafer T. Yavuz
Cafer T. Yavuz is a professor in the Graduate School of EEWS and in the Department of Chemistry at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. ― Ed.