A “Good-Bye” to the Veteran Journalist Mehmet Ali Birand

A “Good-Bye” to the Veteran Journalist Mehmet Ali Birand

by Begüm Burak

It is a widely-known fact that, Turkey has undergone several changes and  turbulent years. Military interventions, Kurdish uprisings and PKK terror, the inability of non-state actors and elites to cope with non-democratic practices – all of these have so far had major impact not only upon theTurkish society but also upon the Turkish media.

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The Image of the “Undesired Citizen” in Turkey: A Comparative Critical Discourse Analysis of Hurriyet and Zaman Newspapers

The Image of the “Undesired Citizen” in Turkey: A Comparative Critical Discourse Analysis of Hurriyet and Zaman Newspapers

by Begüm Burak

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Introduction[1]

Most nation-states since their inception have had some kind of an “imagined” good or desired (acceptable, palatable) citizen profile. This concept of imagined good citizen has its constitutive others too. Thus, while on the one hand the nation-state endeavors to construct a good citizen; on the other hand and simultaneously, it tries to assimilate or dissimilate the identities that it sees unfit to its good citizen imagination. The nation-states have not only used coercive or physical tactics such as forced migration or population exchange to achieve this, but have also used several Gramscian instruments to manufacture such citizen and negatively represent and even vilify its others. The media has been one of the powerful apparatuses that the nation-states have enthusiastically used.

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The 1960 Coup in Turkey: An Attempt to Analyze Politics from a Gramscian Perspective

The 1960 Coup in Turkey: An Attempt to Analyze Politics from a Gramscian Perspective

by Begum Burak

On 27 May, 1960, modern Turkey witnessed its first full-fledged military coup. The coup was of a non-hierarchical nature in the sense that it was not carried out by generals but by other military officers belonging to lower status such as colonels. What paved the way for the coup can be seen as multi-dimensional. What I will try to do in this piece is not to put forward the reasons why that military intervention occurred or the impact it had upon society and politics in Turkey. My main concern is to analyze Turkish politics in Gramscian terms between the years 1960-1961.

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A Critical Review of Turkish Society

A Critical Review of Turkish Society

by Begum Burak

In Turkey, in my opinion, while discussing daily political and social issues, the most prominent conceptual confusion is seen in the difference between “conservative” and “pious”. When one talks about piety, what I simply understand is the performance of daily prayers (in Islam that is five times a day), fasting during the Holy month Ramadan…and so on. On the other hand, a conservative person may be politically conservative and vote for the right-wing parties while leading a traditional life in which family-related values dominate, but he/she may not perform the basic religious activities. However, in the Turkish case these two words “conservative” and “pious” are generally used interchangeably. For instance, the fact that a conservative person may vote for Islamist parties does not mean that it leads an Islamic way of life (which I see necessary in order to be a devout Muslim)

My argument in this article is that a pious person does not necessarily mean that this person is also (politically) conservative or vice versa. Another crucial point that is noteworthy here in leading us to understand the distinction between conservatism and piety is about the segments in the Turkish society. As known, there are two main segments in Turkey: one is the (ultra) Kemalist/Statist/Secularist[1] CHP voters (Republican People’s Party – the main opposition party in Turkey); and the other one is the segment consisting of Conservative/Economically and Politically liberal/Defending an Anglo-Saxon type of Secularism. (Mainly the AKP voters – the Justice and Development Party, the ruling party in Turkey since 2002). The first segment is called “white Turks” and they see themselves as “enlightened and modern”. Also they attach themselves to an interesting mission of “enlightening the society” which is (according to them) backward just because of the religion.

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Turkey’s Journey to Democracy and Freedom

Turkey’s Journey to Democracy and Freedom

 By Begum Burak

In Turkey, enormous changes have been taking place both in domestic politics and in foreign policy issues. It should be noted that, it is not so hard to observe the positive changes and transformations Turkey has been going through in the last years. Since 2002, Turkey has been ruled by a single-party government (The Justice and Development Party –JDP) which has made a considerable amount of contribution to Turkish democracy via EU reforms and some other policies. On the other hand, it is also obvious that the steps that have been taken are not enough. Turkey has a long way to go for further democratization. In this context, the first and foremost need for Turkey for a more enhanced democracy and a more enlightened society is to have a new civilian constitution.

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The Concept of Political Culture and the Turkish Case: Between “Hegemony” and “Ideological State Apparatuses”

by Begum Burak

The main concern of this piece is not to explain the basic determinants of Turkish political culture or to define what Turkish state looks like. In fact what this piece will try to do is to point out the complex relationship between the political culture and state behavior in Turkey. While shedding a light upon this relationship, the nature of the interactions between Turkish political culture and Turkish state will also be examined. While touching upon some features of political culture and the impact of state elites and institutions upon this culture, I will try to employ the Gramscian concept of “hegemony” and the conceptualization of the “ideological state apparatuses” coined by L. Althusser. Continue reading

What Really Interests You: Turkish Democracy or the Arrests?

by Begum Burak

Turkey has been going through a major transformative process in both its political and state system the last couple of years. Undoubtedly, the Justice and Development Party (JDP) has seen both challenges and opportunities in terms of making Turkey more democratic and liberal. First and foremost, the cross-class electoral support of the JDP makes the party relatively enhanced against the opposition parties and the Kemalist state cadres which have been uncomfortable with the victory of the JDP. On the other hand, the European Union membership process plays a key role for Turkey in the road towards more democracy. However, as the party has begun to get incorporated into the state machinery more and more, it has started to feel alarmed by its own promises towards more democratization. In this context, one thing must be made clear: while JDP is adopting a more pro-state attitude (through for example exercising a soft rhetoric over the military), is in fact putting itself in a paradoxical position. This position is nowadays obvious in the party’s reluctance in fulfilling its promises towards more democratization and liberalization.

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Islam and Liberty: What It Really Is and How It Seems or How It Is Shown

by Begum Burak

After 9/11, a considerable amount of attention has been put on issues regarding Islam and its relationship with “others”, in the West. As known, there is not a monolithic and single view towards Islam in the West, just as the Muslim societies do not have a single perception of the West. In this article, I will try to explore why Islam is seen as an illiberal religion by some people in the West, apart from the impacts of the terrorist movements that have been performed by the so-called “Islamist” organizations. Moreover, another central concern of mine would be to shed a light upon the nature of the relationship between Islam and liberty. That is because unlike a widespread notion among non-Muslims and even among some Muslim people, Islam embraces liberty as it is understood based on The Quran (the Holy book) and the sayings of the Prophet, (p.b.u.h.) the Hadith. However, it is obvious that liberty along with tolerance have always been contested concepts with regard to Islam, according to some people.

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The Justice and Development Party as a Litmus Test for Turkish Democracy

Begum Burak

Agence France-Presse/Getty Images  Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his wife Emine Erdogan.

In 2002 elections, Turkey’s political landscape witnessed the victory of a brand new political establishment: The Justice and Development Party (JDP). The JDP was founded in 2001 by a leading figure of the closed Islamist Welfare Party, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan was the ex-mayor of Istanbul and an active actor in Islamist politics in previous years. However, his political career was interrupted by the state establishment in which the military and the judiciary have a crucial role). He was sent to prison because of a poem he read. Ironically, that poem which led to his imprisonment was written by Ziya Gokalp who had been one of the key ideologues of Ottoman-Turkish modernization.

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Ataturk: To Love Him, To Question Him And to Get Hurt

By Begum Burak

Seventy-three years ago, on November 10, Ataturk the founding father of Turkey said “good-bye” to life. Almost no one in Turkey today underestimates the military reasoning of Ataturk. Because, as the leader of the War of Independence, he revealed a considerable degree of enthusiasm and effort to liberate the nation. So it is no surprise that even the “Anti-Kemalist” camp in Turkey states that Ataturk had done a good job in order to establish a free and modern country.

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