Leading Article: Reform could ward off Turkey's twin threats

Share
Related Topics
TURKEY HAS been badly shaken by last week's atrocity at Sivas, where 36 people died in a hotel set on fire by Islamic fundamentalists. Coming soon after Kurdish attacks on tourists in Turkey, the incident raises the spectre of destabilisation under two-pronged attack from fundamentalists and Kurds, occasionally acting together. Western worries have been growing since Kurds attacked Turkish offices in Western Europe last month. Turkey's pivotal position as a regional power between Europe and the Middle East, and adjoining Armenia and Georgia, makes its internal stability of great interest.

Turkey will not become another Iran, where a pro-Western regime was swept away by Islamic revolution. Nor is it like Egypt or Algeria, where fundamentalism thrives on deep social unrest. Turkey is still a largely secular state with one foot in Europe, with which it does half its trade.

Most of Turkey's religious life is pragmatic rather than fundamentalist, and is sufficiently represented in politics to have acquired a stake in continuity. That stake is reinforced by an economy growing at about 6 per cent a year and spreading its benefits across a reasonably broad band of the population, including active Muslims and many integrated Kurds.

The country is, however, vulnerable to internal threats from two directions. Disaffected young people latch on to Islamic fundamentalism because it provides an ideological framework for protest and earns them moral support from people such as the mayor of Sivas and sections of the police. It also brings in funds from abroad. Recently, they have been given additional reasons for being anti-Western by the betrayal of the Bosnian Muslims. They represent a significant nuisance that may grow but they will not ignite public opinion. Rather the contrary. Most Turks have been appalled by the fire at Sivas.

The Kurds are a different problem, even if their protests occasionally overlap with those of the fundamentalists. They have been appallingly badly treated by most Turkish governments, who bear some of the blame for generating the brutal, retrograde Communism of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). The government's failure to respond constructively to the PKK's unilateral ceasefire three months ago was a badly missed opportunity. The Kurds have real grievances, strengthened by watching the trend towards self-determination in other areas.

Turkey's new prime minister, Tansu Ciller, has a chance to bring modern thinking to bear on these problems. She could afford to move beyond the tentative steps of the late president, Turgut Ozal, by granting more autonomy to the Kurds and clamping down on police brutality. The fear that this will lead inevitably to Kurdish secession need not prove justified, particularly if the Kurds are given more reason to prefer living in Turkey. At the moment it is scarcely surprising that some wish to leave.

To make Turkey a more attractive place also requires wider reforms. Turkey was 80 per cent rural when Ataturk started turning it into a modern state. Centralised government and large state industries seemed a necessary feature of development in those days. Now 60 per cent of the population live in towns and are vastly better educated. Parts of industry are very modern. Yet the system of government and administration remains creaky and old-fashioned, and the state sector of the economy far too large. A strong and imaginative government is needed for another push towards reform. Terrorism will get worse if it is allowed to divert attention from the real problems that lie behind it.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Experienced Special Needs Support Worker

£12 - £14 per hour: Recruitment Genius: We are looking for someone to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Content Assistant / Copywriter

£15310 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Sewing Technician

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This market leader in Medical Devices is...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£24000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Situated in the heart of Bradfo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Lily-Rose Depp is not 'all grown up' - she is a 15 year old girl who should not be modelling for an adult fashion magazine

Harriet Williamson
 

If I were Prime Mininster: I would legislate for abortion on demand and abolish VAT on sanitary products

Caroline Criado-Perez
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence