By Praxoulla Antoniadou
DEMONSTRATIONS in Turkey are not necessarily a cause for celebration -and this is especially true for Cyprus.
It goes of course without saying that any measures limiting human freedoms and human rights should be condemned and reactions to such measures by citizens in Turkey seem justified. In any case, respect of human rights is a primary consideration in the annual progress reports prepared by the European Commission for Turkey and the reports repeatedly call upon the Turkish government to proceed to reforms that will strengthen respect of human rights in the country.
It would however be unfortunate to restrict one’s analysis to the conclusion that what we currently witness in the streets of Istanbul is the reaction of Turkish citizens to religious oppression and that this may be the beginning of the end for the government of Prime Minister Erdoğan.
What seems to be actually taking place in Turkey is the attempt on behalf of the Kemalist opposition to exploit Erdoğan ’s insistence on introducing more religious elements in the country’s life and legislation. And certainly no person preaching democracy and liberalism can agree with measures that limit personal freedom.
Beyond however the surface, what seems to be really bothering the old establishment in Turkey is the fact that Erdoğan has managed over the years to diminish the power, influence and control of the army in the country. And those of us who are older remember that former Kemalist governments had been basing their control of power on their cooperation with the military. And of course at those times human rights were again being violated -though violation concerned a different group of individuals.
Prime Minister Erdoğan has recently succeeded to reach an agreement with the Curds leading to the solution of the Kurdish problem. He has also managed to bring the Turkish economy to its feet and to healthy growth. He has won the respect and confidence of partners in Europe and internationally that Turkey under his government can serve as a pole of stability and peace in the area of the Eastern Mediterranean. In other words, both today’s opposition who represent the old Kemalist establishment- as well as the army seem to be increasingly losing control; and they had to do something to regain such control. They thus concentrated on their opponent’s weakness which are his efforts to make his Ιslamic identity a way of life for more.
In Cyprus, it is very important to remember that the Turkish invasion of 1974 was not conducted by Erdoğan or by some Islamic party. The invasion took place when Turkey was being run by Kemalist politicians in harmonious cooperation with the military. The implementation of expansionary Turkish policies was effected by a Kemalist establishment.
Today, to the extent that the current Turkish government of Prime Minister Erdoğan has embarked on a course of a peaceful settlement of the Cyprus problem –following success with efforts to resolve the Kurdish problem- any weakening of Erdoğan’s political influence would undermine prospects for the reunification of Cyprus.
Those of us who really care about peace, cooperation and prosperity in the area of the Eastern Mediterranean should encourage Prime Minister Ertogan to strengthen his Liberal self so that Turkey can further proceed to the road of Democracy, peaceful resolution of problems and of peaceful regional cooperation, rather than regress to the times of military control under the face of a Kemalist Government.
Praxoulla Antoniadou Kyriacou, is the former Minister of Energy, leader of the United Democrats, a member party of Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe