The Middle East and Turkey - MÜFIT YÜKSEL

The Middle East and Turkey

The relations between Anatolia and Mesopotamia, the region historically referred to as the Byzantium and Asia Minor and the region containing Arabian and Persian lands has never been interrupted at any point of history. This was the case since the Hittite-Egypt wars and agreements. At times the civilizations and societies based in Anatolia took control of the region to the south, and at times the societies and power centers (such as the Ayyubids and the Mamluks) in Egypt and Mesopotamia developed towards the north. The same way it is fundamentally impossible to consider these regions as independent from each other and to snatch them away from each other, the existence of such a situation would only be temporary as it is in the present century.

The process of Westernization and transformation to a nation-state which developed and stepped up in the final years of the Ottoman State, the heavy defeats experienced since the Russo-Turkish war of 1877 and rapid loss of Ottoman lands had resulted in the establishment of a new state, which was formed on the balance of Ottomans right after World War I and was based on the denial of the past heritage. This new state rose up through the principle of severing all ties with the Middle East, and Arab and Muslim lands, while it was ideologically based on a strictly positivist impulse of Westernization. During that period, although heavy defeats in wars and loss of territory, as well as the insurrection of Hussein bin Ali, the Sharif of Mecca and his supporters were listed as excuses, the cost of cutting ties with the region has been tremendous for our period. The negative results brought about by this conscious/ideological rupture of relations has cost our country and the region high prices. The deliberate disconnection of relations imposed in the name of Westernization and modernization did not only prevent Turkey from being able to join the economic and societal life of Western states, but it also led to the loss of potential and many opportunities for the long term with the artificial borders created by the Sykes-Picot Agreement.

The post 1989-90 period, which was marked with the end of the Cold War era and the bipolar world order with the downfall of the Soviet Bloc, placed Turkey at a new turning point in respect to its relations with the region. However, it is not easy for Turkey to squirm out of its old habits and restrictions imposed by the official ideology. A great loss of time is taking place, while opportunities submerge. Meanwhile, the Middle Eastern/Arab world is in a state where its already low energy and dynamism has hit rock bottom thanks to the century-long Western exploitation, occupations, as well as Nasserist and secular military administrations.

The point that is has been reached in the past 30 years shows that the aforementioned regions and basins have become constrained and bound to one another. The close relations, which initially started with the development of economic relations resulted in serious crises and hurdles when they steered for the political sphere. The increasing interventions of power groups based on Anglo-Saxon nations, the chaos created by the Arab Spring, the ongoing civil war in Syria, and the current war in Yemen all pose as obstacles to the network of conveying healthy relations. For almost about a hundred years, Turkey, which has been alienated from the region through the Westernist elites from Rumelia, has therefore been unable to establish a network of long-term relations with the region in the past 25 years.

Even though the sympathy towards and the popularity of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has reached a significant stage in the past years, this does not suffice considering the perception grounds of the Arab streets. The fact that the Arab street's perception of Turkey is based on a magazinish ground, such as soccer players like Hasan Şaş, actors like Kıvanç Tatlıtuğ and popular TV series characters, like Polat Alemdar, prevents the hopes of perpetuity for the future. The reliability of a political popularity based on a magazine-like perception ground is open to questions in the long term.

Furthermore, the reading of the region solely over the rhetoric of the Muslim Brotherhood and trying to develop a relation network based on this perception, in response to the official ideology which stipulates cutting all relations and interest in the region, is one of the main causes of the recent crisis between the region and Turkey. Regardless of how justifiable the grounds it is based on in Egypt, the lack of a strong framework of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, as well as the ideological viewpoint based on strategic deprivation and their non-overlapping structure, did not only prevent the establishment of a political and societal ground in the country, but it also fails to provide any contribution to the development of Islam. The fact that the Brotherhood's ideological framework is based on a conflict ground with a “days of ignorance” or "Jahiliyya-like" accusation and complete refutation rather than religiosity of the people or the Islamic accumulation, prevents any connections or dialogue between themselves and the conservative public. While there is no existing political potential in the region, which could be an alternative to the existing regimes except for the brotherhood, its lack of a strong framework and disconnection from the public in accordance with its ideological and political structure gives no hope in this regard.

However, it is evident that Turkey and other countries of the region are compelled and bound to each other. The latest crisis which emerged with the war in Yemen has made the region more compelled to Turkey than ever. Our impressions about Egypt and the Hejaz are also similar. Both countries turn towards Turkey and this request is also being voiced by official circles. In terms of international diplomacy and politics, Turkey not only has the opportunity to act as a mediator to prevent the sectarian wars emerging from Yemen, but it also has the chance to make its presence felt in societal and other spheres in the region. Moreover, these spheres have the opportunity to create stronger and more long lasting grounds and opportunities then international diplomacy and politics. Turkey's opening to the Hejaz by itself will provide extremely significant floors and opportunities. Even the thrusting hand of some international humanitarian organizations in Turkey to the poor in Mecca and Medina –especially those from South Asian countries- propounds significance by itself. Particularly, the “Harameyn Evkafı”, which was the largest charitable foundation established in Mecca and Medina during the reign of Sultan Bayezid II, and the revival of the Nakibu'l-Esraflik institution in Turkey will pave the way for Turkey to be at the center of the region again in the long run, based on solid grounds.

I send my greetings to everyone from the Holy City of Mecca.

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