October 26, 2014

Former FM Yakış defends Turkish schools as the torch bearer of Ottoman vision

Turkish schools are the top performers for Turkey, and the torch bearers of the grand Ottoman vision states former Foreign Minister and ex AK Party founder Yaşar Yakış.

Yaşar Yakış is a founder and former member of the ruling AK Party (Justice and Development Party) and served as Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2002-2003. Speaking to Bugün Newspaper on developments pertaining to domestic and foreign policy Yakış emphasizes that the ruling AK Party has drifted off its founding principles.

Yakış warned for the misguidance in Turkey’s foreign policy in face of the turmoil surrounding the middle east. On domestic issues Yakış joined the criticism against the recent closing of the December 17-25 corruption case which featured high profile figures in the immediate circle of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the AK Party. Yakış also slammed the subsequent government-led witch hunt against the Hizmet movement and the effort to close numerous Turkish Schools around the globe.

What are the reasons and circumstances which led to Turkey being dragged into the chaos surrounding the Middle East?

It is inevitable that an important country like Turkey would be impacted by developments in the Middle East. However Turkey has overreached with its involvement. The very art of diplomacy requires a country to perceive where it needs to stand in such times.

As an example Yakış points out to Turkish government’s strong reaction to Egyptian president Sisi who came to power after the removal of the Muslim Brotherhood. “As in Egypt, if a power circle has in one way or another consolidated its power of a country and has been recognized as the legitimate leader by the international community, than Turkey would only cause itself to be isolated when it declares that it will not recognize the power.

As a consequence do you believe Egypt has played a part in Turkey not getting voted into temporary membership of the UN Security Council?

There is talk of Egypt engaging with other countries to tell them not to vote for Turkey. I advise that the Turkey reads the vote results carefully. Turkey will not be able to dictate anything happening in the Middle East if it plays against Egypt.

I would have congratulated Sisi

In his interview the ex-foreign minister also touched upon Turkey’s reaction to when former general Abdel Fattah el-Sisi was elected president, having previously removed Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammad Mursi.

When Sisi was elected president then-Turkish President Abdullah Gül had congratulated him while current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, then serving as Prime Minister opposed. Which view do you think was correct one?

“While I do not like to draw comparisons between two Presidents; but if you had asked me what I would have done, I would have opted to congratulate Sisi. I would have even gone a step further. When the our president saw Sisi at the in the UN meeting, our president refused to take a seat. I would have taken the seat and tried to use wit and a sarcasm to calm the tensions.|

Turkey were left on its own, once the West shifted its policy on Syria

Turkey’s main policy pertaining Syria, has been the unconditional removal of Bashar Al-Assad; even initially putting it forward as a perquisite to join on any effort against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which had advanced in the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani, by Turkey’s border. Turkey has however subsequently agreed to allow a corridor for the Kurdish fighters while also approving the U.S. using the Incirlik base in South Turkey to launch attacks.

Syria marked the beginning of Turkey’s foreign policy problems in the Middle East. How would you reflect upon Turkey’s Syria policy of the past 3-4 years?

“Turkey was right from the beginning. When the dictator (Al-Assad) started persecuting his people, Turkey, like the rest of the international community, were on the side of the people. The international community however stepped on the brakes of its policy once it saw that radicals had over taken the weapons sent. Turkey however did not step on the brakes and as a result remained isolated. Turkey should have adapted its policy to the change by stating ‘my Syrian policy was based on the premise that Assad would fall quickly. This expectation did not occur; therefore I will change my policy’. Expressing the change in foreign policy is not a sign of weakness it is a strength. The Turkish people would have taken this news maturely. To arm opposition forces in a country is in the end of the day, an infringement on that country’s internal affairs.”

Yaşar Yakış draws parallels between Turkey’s Syria policy with the 1998 film Saving Private Ryan. “In that movie sent in a group a soldiers to save Ryan. At the end of the day Ryan was saved but all the other soldiers, who went to save him, had died in combat. Turkey’s stance will be justified in the end; however Turkey will endure all the suffering placed on it.”

As a founder, how do you view the direction the AK Party has taken in the past 12 years and its current status?

“I was amongst the small group who drafted out the party’s program in 2001. Much of the ideals that had motivated us have been scraped off. In our program draft we had made sure to make inferences on religious identity. However we now see that religious identity has started to play a major role shaping the Turkish society.”

Corruption and the suspicion following the measures against the police

One of the main topics that has been top of the agenda of Turkey’s public discourse has been the recent controversial closing of the 2013 ‘December 17-25 corruption case’ which featured high profile figures in the immediate circle of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the AK Party.

In the aftermath of the case Erdoğan had denied the allegations in an effort to frame the case as a plot to overthrow the government. Subsequently numerous police officers who carried out the investigation were detained on dubious charges of illegal wiretapping and attempting to overthrow the government. Erdoğan even blamed the Hizmet movement of influential preacher Fethullah Gülen for allegedly influencing the police to carry out the operation, even calling the movement ‘a parallel state’. Critics have slammed Erdoğan’s move as ‘an attempt to cover up charges’ by making the Hizmet movement a scape goat.

When speaking of ideals, AK Party had vowed to combat corruption, prohibitions and poverty. Do you believe this has transpired?

There are currently a lot of allegations, and I believe these allegations need to be investigated and brought to light to the fullest.

Are you talking about the corruption allegations?


On the 17-25 December all charges were recently dropped. How do you view this incident?

“In a country where there is a rule of law, it is everyone’s job to respect the ruling of the judiciary. However, the judiciary is equally responsible for responding to public conscious. At the end of the day it is assumed that any ruling is made in ‘the name of the Turkish Nation’. In divine justice all will be held accountable. If not this world then the next world. I do not want to believe that crimes can go on forever unpunished.

There were many officers and members of the judiciary who were removed from office in the aftermath of the probe how do you view these instances?

The fact that there was a resorting to such purges has caused for much suspicion. If there was any wrong doing than the removal from office should have been conducted via a court order.

There was claim that the 17-25 December probe was the work of a parallel state. Do you believe that such a parallel state exists?

I views these as allegations, and would expect to see evidence of such a claim. I have never seen a ‘parallel state’ that is alleged to exist.

The fact that Turkey will not host the Turkish Olympics is a huge loss

Pro-government circles have accused the numerous Turkish schools which operate across the globe as part of the alleged parallel state. The Turkish language competition held amongst these schools are known as the “Turkish Olympics”.

How do you view the existence of the Turkish schools?

“The Turkish schools are Turkey’s biggest success in the world. As someone who has been across the globe, I can state that the Turkish schools are definitely the institutions I am most proud of. In my travels overseas many deputy prime ministers have often come up to me and ask if I could help getting in touch with the Turkish ambassador to help the students enroll in the school. I have also had the honor of being told the numerous success stories of these schools.”

Why do you think there is an attempt to close these schools?

“I can provide the following analogy in history. Napoleon had closed priest schools simply because he had personal distaste for priests. As a result Jesuit priests fled and went across the globe to establish Jesuit schools. A majority of them had come to the Ottoman Empire. The St. Joseph high school is one of these schools. Now if the French government were to come and ask us to close the St. Joseph high school our reaction would be just as negative as when the Turkish government request, for example, Tanzania to close the schools.”

Published on BGNNews, 26 October 2014, Sunday

AK Party founder: I don't believe claims of parallel state