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The Failed Turkish Republic #TurkeysNewJourney

The Failed Turkish Republic <a class="hashtagger" href="">#TurkeysNewJourney</a>

In one of his speeches, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founding father of the Turkish Republic, said: “The Republic demands new generations who will possess free thought, free understanding and free conscience.”

That was indeed the fundamental difference between the new Turkish state and the sick old man of Europe, the Ottoman Empire. In one there was an almighty sultan, absolute rule, multiple justice and education systems, mullahs, sheikhs, serfdom; in the other a demand for new generations with free thought, conscience and understanding.

The republican project that Atatürk described as his greatest achievement has failed. The old regime of the sultans sneaking in gradually, with the president of the country already acting like an almighty absolute ruler, the government adopting decrees every other day, the taking down one or more fundamental pillars of the “secular” republic, and the Parliament rendered into an awkward powerless institution with well-paid deputies. The president who could not take sick leave and decided not to spend the Republic Day this year in Brunei, New York or somewhere in Africa, decided to abandon the capital Ankara, and with him, move the celebrations to İstanbul to inaugurate the third airport of the largest city in the country. Though some officious pen slingers claimed that Chinese had already constructed an airport three times larger than the new Istanbul airport that cost only 12 billon dollars while Turkey spent – of course, through a generous built operate and transfer system with guaranteed number of passengers – 34 billion dollars. Naturally, Turkey has all the right to boast about it now that it has one of the largest airports in the world and on route to become a global travel hub.

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The nation state and the secular republic with all their norms, principles and establishments have been placed on a target board. Over the past 16 years, under the pretext of “advanced democracy,” a new conservative capital has been created and nourished. Local administrations were “disciplined” and allegiance was assured. Universities were domesticated and the much-opposed Higher Education Board (YÖK) occupied and converted, becoming one of the most effective tools of the new regime. Under the “Not enough but yes” campaign, liberals were fooled into supporting a set of constitutional reforms; the remaining checks and balances of the secular, democratic republican system were tarnished, and high courts were fully tamed. With the thriller’s indictments based mostly on secret testimonies of brigands and electronically concocted evidence, respected commanders of the Turkish Armed Forces were made criminals, sent behind bars and sentenced as part of a campaign to castrate the military. That has been achieved as well. After the failed 15 July 2016 coup, the Fethullah Gülen group was effectively purged and a major threat for Turkey was averted, but the regime of the country rapidly evolved into something very much like the Ottoman times with the so-called executive presidential system.

One early republican era march, praising the achievements of the young republic, said: “We have woven Anatolia with iron nets in 10 years.” The song was boasting about the railroad achievements of the young republic. Now the president has been adamantly challenging that song, saying: “Not them, we have woven an iron net all through Anatolia.”

Indeed, he is right. Yes, it is not merely roads and railroads – during the past 16 years, when it comes to infrastructure, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) has achieved a tremendous successes. Turkey’s economic development over the past decade has been remarkable. The Marmaray tunnel crossing, the new airport and such grand projects are a testimony to that great success that everyone should salute with praise while at the same time applaud the great strides the Turkish lira has taken towards becoming a national barter tool.

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Turkey is fast becoming something far different from a secular, democratic Turkish Republic…

About The Author

Yusuf Kanli

Born in Cyprus in 1959, Yusuf Kanlı is a graduate of the English Language and Literature Department of the Faculty of Letters of the Ankara University. He started journalism with the Turkish Daily News in 1978. Until he briefly left the paper in 1985 (for military service in Northern Cyprus) he served as diplomatic correspondent, assistant foreign news editor and assistant editor. During this period he was as well one of the two co-authors of an annual reference book on Turkey, “Turkey Almanac”. After completing his military service he returned the Daily News as assistant editor. In 1989 he became executive editor and also started writing daily opinion articles. He continued to be one of the co-authors of the “Turkey Almanac” annual reference book. In February 1993, over differences with the publisher on editorial policy, he quit the paper and joined the Anatolia News Agency (AA) as deputy foreign news chief. He stayed with the Anatolia News Agency until September 1995. In this period, he covered the Armenia-Azerbaijan war over Nogorno-Karabagh, covered developments in the post-independence Central Asian republics. Because of his refusal as the duty editor to run a manipulated news story demanded by the then lady prime minister of the country, he was fired from the AA, a development that Kanlı considers as his “medal of honor” in the profession. On his return to the Daily News for a third time in October 1995, he first became an editor at large but soon assumed the responsibility of electronic publishing and established Turkey’s first daily updated English language news web site, the TDN Online on May 19, 1996 (now In January 1997, he became executive editor of the Daily News for a second time and stayed in that post until he was appointed as editor-in-chief in June 2004. In February 2007, he quit all executive duties and became a contract columnist of the newspaper. He has been also writing weekly articles in Turkish for a variety of newspapers and news portals in Northern Cyprus. He is a former chairperson and the honorary chairperson of Diplomacy Correspondents Association (DMD) of Turkey, an active member of Association of Foreign Policy Council, a member of the executive board and vice chairperson of the Association of Journalists and coordinator of the Press for Freedom project, which has been monitoring and reporting on press and freedom of expression issues in Turkey since 2013. He has been a member of several associations and foundations, mostly established by Turkish Cypriots living in Turkey or abroad. He is married to Dr. Aydan Kanlı and has one daughter, Cansu. He has Turkish, Turkish Cypriot and Cypriot triple nationality.

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