December 14, 2014

AK Party polarizes Turks in Balkans

Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Kocaeli deputy Lütfü Türkkan, noting that the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government is pursuing a policy of polarization vis-à-vis Turks and Muslims in the Balkan countries, has said this policy will have detrimental effects.

Arguing that Turkey should ensure that the Turks and Muslims in the Balkans live in peace and harmony for their own safety and security, Türkkan stressed that the AK Party conveys political disagreements and polarization in Turkey to other regions as well. Speaking to Sunday's Zaman, Türkkan further noted that operations against the Hizmet movement in Turkey have extended to the Balkans as well.

Recalling that Turkey has pursued a policy compatible with the priorities and interests of its neighboring countries, Türkkan said: “Turkey should contribute to the attainment of unity and solidarity among Turks and Muslim elements in the region. To this end, investments should be encouraged. Investments may be made in the region to address the social and cultural problems of the people in the region. But if you harm their unity, your economic contributions will not work. You will not attain your ultimate goal even if you restore historical artifacts.”

Noting that it is wrong to polarize people who are not legally allowed to vote in Turkish elections, Türkkan argued that aid delivered to these people is organized in a way that contributes to the polarization of the Turks in the region. Recalling that his family migrated from Macedonia to Turkey, Türkkan explained: “There is currently a state of polarization among Turks in the Balkans based on the political developments in Turkey. People are polarized along [lines defined by] whether or not they are AKP [AK Party] supporters. If an intellectual submits an application to the Yunus Emre Cultural Center to do research there, the first question directed at him is whether he supports the AKP. Those people do not cast votes in the elections in Turkey. They do not have any political or electoral role other than loving Turkey. Polarizing these people along parties they cannot vote for is one of the greatest detriments that could ever be done to Turkey.”

Operation against Hizmet movement

Noting that Turks and Muslims in the Balkans do not have the chance to send their kids to the Turkish schools there, Türkkan stated: “It is possible to observe the effects and results of operations staged against the [faith-based] Hizmet movement there. If you mention Yahya Kemal High School in Macedonia [which is affiliated with the Hizmet movement], the AKP office there would accuse you of being an enemy of Turkey. I am saying this as a concrete observation; it is not just a rumor. You [the government] already victimize people in Turkey for political reasons, and it is even graver to extend this brutality to include people abroad as well. This is particularly grave. There are certain foundations and associations in the region to which the AKP feels close. Funds are allocated to these associations and foundations to run government and AKP propaganda [campaigns]. By reliance on these associations and foundations, the AKP alienates and polarizes people in the region. Those [abroad] who love Turkey and feel close to the Turkish schools are being alienated. For example, President [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan accused educational volunteers of establishing a parallel structure on his trip to Africa, and the AKP disseminates propaganda to ensure that members of the Hizmet movement are seen as agents.”

Noting that the polarization among Turks and Muslims in the Balkans will have a lasting impact, Türkkan says the AKP interferes with the political structure and organization of the Turkish society and community there. “Despite the possibility that their move would weaken the Rights and Freedoms Movement, a political party that most Turks vote for in Bulgaria, they attempted to ensure the election of Kasım Bey [a former Rights and Freedoms Movement deputy] on another party's list. When this attempt failed, they set aside Kasım Bey and supported the Rights and Freedoms Movement. This changing attitude of the AKP does nothing but plant seeds of enmity among the Turks in this country [Bulgaria]. The AKP does nothing to ensure unity among Turks; it even seems that it has assumed a mission that aims to polarize them. The AKP will eventually step down, when it loses popular support, but it will not be easy to address the repercussions of its policies of polarization. It will take a very long time to fix this problem in the region,” he stated.

Türkkan explained that the empire of fear that the AKP government has created in Turkey is also influential in the Balkans as well. “Because of my respect for a friend of mine there, I will not give the name of his village. During my visit to the region, a friend of mine told me during a conversation after the Friday prayer that he was following me on Facebook and that he liked what I wrote but he did not click the ‘like' button. I asked him why, and he said his son was studying in Turkey and that he was afraid that the AKP government would harm him. They have created an empire of fear and tyranny that intimidates even an ordinary man in a remote village of Macedonia.”

Recalling that he had raised a discussion in Parliament of the improper practices and policies he observed in the Balkans, Türkkan also told Sunday's Zaman that he had asked why they intimidate Turks who love Turkey. Noting that AKP members rely on an approach of denial, Türkkan says: “This means they are so blind that they are unable to see what they have caused. Turks [there] do not have a chance to send their kids to Turkish schools. If one of their kids studies in Turkey, they cannot do this [send their other child to a Turkish school in their country] because they will be threatened; they are told that if they send their child to a Turkish school in the region, the scholarship granted to the other kid studying in Turkey will be suspended. AKP deputies argue that they do not need to feel intimidated, but the people there feel this threat and intimidation.”

Türkkan highlighted that the Muslims in the Balkans, who were persecuted by the communist regime for the past 70-80 years, are now subjected to a similar campaign by their brothers. Furthermore, he explained: “I expect a different attitude from Prime Minister [Ahmet] Davutoğlu. I hope that he appreciates the Turkish identity and presence there. We will wait and see whether or not he will adopt a more constructive approach regarding the policies and practices of polarization among the Turks in the Balkans.”

Published on Today's Zaman, 13 December 2014, Saturday