.: Özlem Çağlar Yılmaz

Tribute to the Glorious Resistance of Turkish Democracy

Turkey has had a well established unique bureaucratic tutelage system. Her inheritance of a bureaucratic establishment had ties with the Ottoman Empire period. However the Ottoman period had also covered a tradition of decentralization and a plural society. This social and political structure urged constitutionalization movements as well as attempts to guarantee individual and civil rights of the citizens in the late Empire.
Turkish Grand Assembly had been founded on a pluralist base in 1920, however after the independence war the foundation of Turkish Republic in October 1923 had launched a new political system. The new politics via the Republican elites after 1925 had been established on a single party system which eliminated civil political traditions, ignored the plurality of the society. The Republican governors of the single party regime based the official ideology mainly on nationalism which suppressed other national identities as well as individual identities; on laicism which destroyed religious freedom; and statism where freedom of entrepreneurship and property rights were violated. Whenever the politics had opportunities to untighten the boundaries, the civil and military bureaucratic interventions restricted freedoms. After the peaceful transformation to a multi party system in 1950, the bureaucratic tutelage did not let the civil political culture flourish; and the mother of Turkish coups occurred in 1960 that cruelly ended up with the execution of the Prime Minister Adnan Menderes of Democratic Party who had been democratically elected. This coup had been the main start of the establishment of the unique bureaucratic tutelage system in the world history. The civil, political and economical field had been dominated and surrounded by the bureaucracy while somehow a masked open democratic system was on the scene. Even if Turkey had experienced high quality performed democratic elections, unfortunately political parties had not been provided with full democratic control of the regime so as to reform and expand freedoms. Elected governments could only deal with some superficial political actions such as basic economic activities, building urban roads, however they were prevented to interfere in security, foreign policy, and to act to reform neither the legal system nor the economic system.
The unique bureaucratic institutions bounded the hands of democratic governments while an attempt to reform had faced unrelated reactions. Those reactions were reflected as threats to the unity, the secular feature of the regime. However, reactions hindered the fear of losing the power of controlling the system undemocratically. Meanwhile this system had created economic benefactors who enjoyed protectionism and subsidies, as economic freedoms and prosperity were suppressed. Those business circles had been spokesmen of this regime and the official ideology. So called civil actors, academia, privileged elites had been benefactors and spokesmen of this regime hindered by fine sayings such as for the sake of modernism, secularism, and development- as all had remained on paper.
The economic liberalization reforms after 1990s by Turgut Ozal of the Motherland Party, brought up new economic actors making business and accumulating capital free from subsidies; and those economic actors nourished new civil society actors, as well as new civil media circles. Liberalization even to some extent changed the course of the society; and backed new political elites who had the opportunity to challenge the old Republican elites and the privileged circles. That has been the AK Party which was the result of those reforms and civil and economic changes back from 1990s.
AK Party which came into power in 2002 made significant political and economic reforms while the interconnectedness between the democratic system and the civil people had expanded where the openness, accountability had been on way to infuse in the system and transform the bureaucratic structure via democratic demands. Those demands forced initiatives in Kurdish problem, Alevite problem, on the rights of non Muslims and moreover in economic liberties. However there has been a strong bureaucratic resistance all through out reforms regarding membership to European Union and others. The Kurdish matter had had a core value in this bureaucratic tutelage system. Threats to unity had been an ideal excuse to resist democratization and liberalization. Nonetheless AK Party had recognized that resolving the Kurdish problem is not only the key to open the system but also a path to bring peace, prosperity and interconnection among the people of the region. Opening the system meant to challenge the military and civil bureaucracy concerning military, foreign policy, security and intelligence.
At the time of the changes after 1990s, Turkey’s civil life had met with a group of a religious community which dealt with education and charity on the surface. However in the 20-30 years of time this group lead by a so called religious leader F. Gulen preferred to control the civil and military bureaucracy via secret strategies instead of going to competitive politics; as it had been clear that there was no reason to be in political government to have the power. Civil circles came to better understand the hindered aims and kept some distance. Nonetheless there had been unexpected cruel actions…
AK Party’s attempt to dissolve the bureaucratic tutelage system crashed with the resistance of the unaccountable, irresponsible bureaucratic power. Gulen’s group had established an extensive power over particularly intelligence, military, foreign policy and communications bureaucracy, which was not limited to other bureaucratic institutions, covered up with civil educational and charity activities.
AK Party’s attempt might be reflected as to gain more power, that should be said that this is a democratic political and a legitimate one. A liberal democrat view could only look for democratic legitimate actors to keep responsible with their actions so that civil economic actors can push for more reforms to limit the state, and expand freedoms. The recent happenings particularly starting from 2012 which also coincides with the initiative to resolve the Kurdish problem is the dissolution of the ever strong Turkish bureaucratic tutelage system.
Every other reaction of Gulenist groups was responded by the high election results supporting AK Party in spite of any other democratic deficits in this period.

The cruel 15 July 2016 coup attempt had been an historical moment for the Turkish people. Unlike the silence and incapacity to resist the coup and the execution of the democratically elected actors in 1960, this time in 2016 there had been civil people of Turkey, who had enjoyed the openness, the enormous economic gains, the prosperity and the democratic change; and moreover the hope for more, committed to uphold the real power by their hands. People of Turkey would like to democratically control the system, they would like to change the power democratically when they don’t favor, do not want a change by armed forces or bureaucratic forces. The cruel night had witnessed the glorious resistance of civil people to the tanks and armed forces along with the resistance of President Erdogan and the other political actors unlike the ones in the past.
This has been a zero point. Turkey has a way to go to establish a strong pluralist, democratic, open system.
To understand the unique bureaucratic establishment intensively and extensively; to differentiate various factors, actors and events from each other at particular time periods; hereby in his book titled The Glorious Resistance of Turkish Democracy Prof. Atilla Yayla proposes in depth analysis within a historical political perspective. Yayla is an academic whose professional life along with his civil endeavors have been devoted to better understanding of the philosophical foundations of a free, just and prosperous society in human history. Moreover, he has been an intellectual entrepreneur acting to nourish new generations and support new intellectuals to expand the queries of a civilized, free, plural society.
As an academic and intellectual entrepreneur Atilla Yayla preferred the bureaucratically unprivileged path to support the political legitimacy; to continue to criticize constructively civil political actors for the opportunities to transform the structure; and to heavily invest in intellectual fields which will prevail for long run and influence the political climate eventually.
Under the eternal light of the glorious resistance on July 15, 2016, this book provides a distinguished perspective to get involved in the political spectrum of Turkey and to develop a further insight to analyze the political, economic and legal requirements for liberty, justice and peace in Turkey as well as in the geographically, and culturally related regions.
May 2018
* Preface, July 15: Glorious Resistance of Turkish Democracy, Atilla Yayla, Liberte Publications, 2018.