A Turkish Affair: Dr. Hamit Bozarslan on Radical Political Experiments in Turkey



‘Nations are in a fight with each other and the strongest will win’

After the June 2015 elections to elect the country’s 25th Parliament, Turkey had its first hung Parliament since the 1999 general election. This has resulted in a snap general election being called for November 2015.

Considering the political situation in Turkey, the session by Dr. Hamit Bozarslan came on a significant point in time. On 28th October, Dr. Bozarslan addressed the students of IBA in Aman CED Seminar Room. Dr. Tiago André Ferreira Lopes, Assistant Professor at IBA, commenced the session by introducing Dr. Hamit Bozarslan who holds a PhD in history from L’Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociale (EHESS), Paris and a second PhD in Political Science from the Institute of Political Studies (IEP). He is at present Director of Studies at EHESS. He has authored many books including A History of Violence in Middle-East (2008), The Kurdish Conflict (2009), History of Turkey From Empire to the Present (2013), and Revolution and the State of Violence: The Middle-East 2011-2015 (2015).

‘During a time when the Arab world was witnessing important uprisings, Turkey was the only democratic model available for the Islamic states.’

Dr. Hamit Bozarslan began with explaining the Turkish Model and talked about Turkish affairs from 1908-1918 - when Turkey had an almost revolutionary experience. Zia Gokalp who was not only a Turkish sociologist, a writer, and a poet but also a political activist, tried to bring constitutionalism back to Ottoman Empire. It was him who believed that Turkey, in future, should not be liberal rather it should be homogeneous in terms of religion and culture. Not surprisingly then that he was an advocate of Social Darwinism, that ‘Nations are in fight with each other and the strongest will win’.

As Turkey had always been inspired by the most influential and highest form of civilizations, Byzantine and then Islam and now Westernization, it was Gokalp`s view that Islamization was the best approach. So Islamization had also included non-Sunni societies like Alevis but on the other hand there were societies like AKP, which were extremely conservative and only included Sunni societies and even excluded Alevis.

Giving us a short overview of the history of Turkey Mr. Bozarslan came back to the current situation of Turkey. By 2012-2015 AKP had managed to create a hegemonic bloc (hegemonic, a word coined by Anotonio Gramci). Recently, a Turkish politician used this concept to understand evolution. What he found out was that evolution could be understood by dividing it into four pillars: First pillar, the state of Bourgeoisie; second pillar, AKP funding the poor societies in Turkey convincing people that poverty is not a political question; third pillar, a very strong trade union; Fourth pillar, the support of conservative Anatolian societies.

When AKP emerged, Islamic movements were more about supporting offensive Jihad; AKP however went through deradicalization. Interestingly enough, 10 years later AKP became radical not because of Islam but because of its conservatism. The height of its radicalization was such that it wasn`t even threatened by the army, which is a very important political factor. By summer 2013, AKP had involved itself in three other opposition movements namely, Feminist movement, Radical Movement, and extremely nationalist, anti-Zionist movement, hence, the protest in Istanbul which was known as Gazi or Taksim.

F. Gulen gave a statement that opposition recruited brilliant, middle-class boys to form a contrary system and also that AKP had gone corrupt. This angered AKP so much that they responded violently.

Mr. Bozarslan was very critical of the promises being made by the politicians for 2071 which marked the 600th anniversary of the conquest of Constantinople. According to him, no one knows who will be alive by then so how can one try to make promises but then politicians are going to act like politicians, right?

With a promise he ended the session that the talk is going to continue at Alliance Francaise on 29th October at 6.30 pm. A short round of questions and answers followed which the eager students took as an opportunity to raise important questions. Some of the questions raised were: what according to him is the future of Pakistan-Turkey relationship? Another question was by a student who was looking forward to hearing more about the historical narrative of Turkey. Mr. Bozarslan was very optimistic about Pak-Turkey relations because of the bright future both countries will have (hopefully). As for the other question he addressed the student by talking about the expected elections on Sunday with an unpredictable scenario and he felt that it was necessary to talk about current events rather than the historical ones.

The session ended with Dr. Framji Minwala presenting Mr. Hamit Bozarslan with a token of appreciation on behalf of the students and the faculty at IBA.