Saturday, June 7, 2008

Military Intervenes in Headscarf Issue

So much for the military not intervening in politics . . .

From Gareth Jenkins:
Interestingly, the court’s decision coincided with the adoption of a more assertive public stance by the other bastion of the country’s secular establishment, the Turkish General Staff (TGS). In what was probably an accident of timing, the Constitutional Court’s ruling was announced late in the afternoon of the same day on which the TGS was hosting an international conference in Istanbul on the problems facing the Middle East. Since the AKP’s victory in the July 2007 elections, Chief of Staff General Mehmet Yasar Buyukanit, chastened by the Turkish electorate’s refusal to heed his warnings about the threat posed by the party to secularism, had adopted a relatively low public profile. But, in his opening address to the June 5 conference in Istanbul, which was carried live on Turkish national television, Buyukanit delivered a blunt warning both to those inside who sought to erode secularism and to foreigners who described it as a “moderate Islamic” country.

“The Turkish Republic is the only country in the Islamic world with a secular structure,” declared Buyukanit. “There are those who want to destroy Turkey’s secular structure or attach epithets to the country’s name. The judicial bodies will never allow this to happen. There is no power strong enough to overthrow the republic and its fundamental principles” (NTV, cnnturk, haberturk, June 5).

After the Constitutional Court had announced its decision annulling the constitutional amendments, a battery of high-ranking military officials lined up to endorse the ruling.

“We must all respect the decisions of the judiciary,” said Buyukanit. “Turkey is a secular, democratic, social state ruled by law. It is impossible to change these characteristics. This is not a comment; it is a statement of the obvious” (Radikal, Milliyet, NTV, Hurriyet, Vatan, Zaman, June 6).

“The Constitutional Court has made its decision and I respect it,” declared General Ilker Basbug, the current commander of the Turkish Land Forces, who is expected to take over as chief of the TGS when Buyukanit retires at the end of August this year (Vatan, Zaman, Radikal, Milliyet, Hurriyet, NTV, June 6).
Büyükanıt is a largely discredited figure, but comments reaffirm the TSK's hardline against AKP and portentously reassert its role as a key political player. The real question is in regard to Basbug, who is ot discredited and well-known as a Kemalist hardliner, but a much smarter politician.

No comments: