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ANTI-AMERICAN REFLECTIONS OF THE ARAB SPRING IN TURKEY Dr. Ozan Örmeci (U ş ak University)

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1 ANTI-AMERICAN REFLECTIONS OF THE ARAB SPRING IN TURKEY Dr. Ozan Örmeci (U ş ak University)

2 1.Arab Spring: What is it? -The term “Arab Spring” refers to the revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests that took place in Arab region during The term seems to be inspired from the Prague Spring of 1968, a political liberalization period in communist Czechoslovakia administrated by Slovak politician and Czechoslovakia leader ( ) Alexander Dubcek but failed and ended with the Soviet intervention. -Hofheinz claims that the term was first used in American and Arab media around the year 2005, a time when Syrian tanks were withdrawn from Lebanon due to huge demonstrations, simultaneously with the taking place of local elections in Palestine, Saudi Arabia as well as general elections in Iraq and most importantly the emergence of a kind of awakening of democracy and rebel spirit in Arab region mostly among young people thanks to increasing internet and media freedoms.

3 1.Arab Spring: What is it? -Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati thinks that the Arab Spring was first launched in 2002 by Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz in order to ensure the prevalence of peace in the region. -Arab Spring started effectively on 17 December 2010 in Tunisia after the self-immolation of a young protestor named Mohamed Bouazizi who would later become the symbol martyr of the revolution and huge demonstrations that began against President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s 23 years of iron hand rule. -28 days later, on 14 January 2011, President Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia and “Jasmine Revolution” towards the end of 2011 succeeded in establishing a multi- party regime in Tunisia despite of the fears of rising Islamism.

4 1.Arab Spring: What is it? -Arab Spring’s second station was Egypt. Popular demonstrations started in 25 January never stopped and forced President Hosni Mubarak to resign on 11 February. 846 people died because of the clashes between protestors and security forces during the demonstrations. -On 24 May, President Mubarak was ordered to stand trial on charges of premeditated murder of peaceful protestors and -if convicted- could face the death penalty. The military junta, headed by effective head of state Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, announced on 13 February that the constitution would be suspended, both houses of parliament dissolved, and that the military would rule for six months until elections could be held. -Egyptian Revolution of 2011 also resulted in the taking place of multi-party free elections in November However, the dominant majority of Islamists in Egyptian Parliament after the elections was seen as a danger by many authorities.

5 1.Arab Spring: What is it? -Arab Spring’s third station was Libya. However, Libyan Revolution was different than Tunisia and Egypt examples and it involved first a civil war between pro- regime militia and revolutionary rebels and later NATO air bombarding operations that lasted near 6 months. -Finally, Libya’s dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was killed violently by rebels and revolutionary forces took control over the country. An interim government called National Transitional Council was established under the leadership of former Minister of Justice Mustafa Abdul Jalil and was recognized by more than hundred states in the world. -Libyan people will also face with free elections soon, though there are serious clashes and disunities among revolutionary forces.

6 1.Arab Spring: What is it? -The Arab Spring’s fourth station could be Syria since there are violent armed clashes between the security forces of Bashar al-Assad and protesters going on for months and more than 5000 people were already death. -In addition to Syria, there were also noticeable civil uprisings in Bahrain and Yemen, some major protests in Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco and Oman as well as some minor protests in Lebanon, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Western Sahara. -Arab Spring is often portrayed as the late French Revolution of the Arab countries and praised by many observers despite of the fears of problems that could be caused with the rise of political Islam.

7 Arab Spring: Late French Revolution of the Arabs? (At left side, French painter Eugene Delacroix’s famous painting “La Liberté Guidant Le Peuple” depicting French Revolution of At right side, an illustration made by a young artist after the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia.)

8 2. Turkey’s Positioning - Starting from former Foreign Minister İsmail Cem’s tenure in office ( ), Turkey has begun to establish friendly relations with its neighbors including Greece, Iran, Syria and Iraq. - The process gained speed with Justice and Development Party’s come to power and also found an intellectual base when the inventor of “zero problems with neighbors” policy and former foreign policy advisor of the JDP government Ahmet Davutoğlu became Turkey’s new Foreign Minister in According to Ülgen and many other analysts, “zero problems with neighbors” policy, which aimed at building strong economic, political and social ties with the country’s immediate neighbors, helped Turkey to climb into the league of influential regional powers. However, with the emergence of the Arab Spring, the policy’s vulnerabilities came into the sight. Davutoğlu noticed this but hesitated to accept immediately.

9 2. Turkey’s Positioning - The first crisis took place in 2010 on the issue of Iran’s uranium enrichment program. On May 2010, Turkey, Iran and Brazil brokered a deal that would have had send 1200 kg of low-enriched uranium to Turkey, and then to Russia and France for further enrichment and fuel fabrication. Few days later at UN Security Council, Turkey and Brazil’s “no” votes for a resolution (resolution 1929) condemning Iran’s nuclear aims and uranium enrichment program and bringing sanctions against this country, were not enough and created a picture that caused Turkey to be perceived outside of the Western bloc. - Second crisis came out during 2010 NATO summit in Lisbon. 28 member countries fiercely debated and finally agreed on the adoption of ballistic missile defense and early warning radar system that would be established in Turkish territory as a NATO project. Turkey insisted on not naming Iran and Syria in the final declaration of the meeting as threats that make the ballistic missile defense system inevitable and got what it deserves though it created reactions among its allies.

10 2. Turkey’s Positioning - The third crisis happened when the Arab Spring paid a visit to Libya. Turkey was one of the strongest supporters of the rebellious mass movements in Tunisia and Egypt, but hesitated when it took place in a friendly regime in Libya, where Turkey has important number of workers as well as investments. “Zero problems policy” dictated Turkey to maintain good relations with the old regime. - However, after an initial neutral stance, Turkey soon recognized that its decisiveness was damaging its image and took the side of the rebel forces though Turkish Army did not engage in military activities in Libya. - The same problem took place when the Arab Spring waves began to hit Syrian shores but Prime Minister Erdoğan -unlike Libya case- took a decisive position against Assad regime immediately. Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoğlu recently said, “We wanted Assad to be Syria’s Gorbachev, but he chose to be Syria’s Milošević”.

11 2. Turkey’s Positioning - It is a fact that Turkey’s Islamist originated government sees Arab Spring as a positive development for its own political force in the region as well as the spreading of democracy. - This approach is clearly visible in Turkish Prime Minister and especially Turkish Foreign Minister’s speeches. Former academic, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Prof. Ahmet Davutoğlu uses the term “earthquake” to define three fundamental changes that took place in the late 20 th and early 21 st centuries. The first earthquake for Davutoğlu was the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. The second earthquake came with the 9/11 attacks on America, which ultimately changed the logic of international security. The third and last earthquake as Davutoğlu sees it happened last year, was the Arab Spring (Davutoğlu prefers to call it as Arab Awakening) and the euro-zone crisis. According to Davutoğlu what we are witnessing today in the Middle East is the overthrowing of the “abnormal and artificial structures” of Cold War divisions in the region.

12 3. Anti-Americanism in Turkey - Anti-Americanism could be defined as a reactive political wave based on the opposition or hostility to the policies of the United States of America, the country that has been labeled for many decades as the superpower of the world. - Former French Minister of Foreign Affairs Hubert Vedrine underlines that opposition to some policies of USA such as the death penalty, the war in Vietnam or in Iraq does not make one anti-American and anti- Americanists are the ones who are blind, prejudiced and systematic critics of USA. - Chiozza on the other hand differentiates anti-American attitudes towards American culture (which is often more dogmatic, radical and based on political Islam in Muslim societies) and anti-American attitudes towards American policies.

13 3. Anti-Americanism in Turkey - Although anti-Americanism never gained the status of a real international ideology, due to reactions against American foreign policy especially starting from the 1960s, anti-Americanism became an influential political trend especially in the third world countries. Newly developing countries were heavily affected by anti-imperialist and anti-American youth movements in the 1960s and 1970s. - Although starting from the 1960s, Turkey’s 1968 generation and socialist movement has always been the strongest anti-American actor in Turkish politics, there are other important anti-American actors in Turkey such as ultra-nationalists and political Islamists within the tradition of Necmettin Erbakan’s “National Outlook (Milli Görüş)”. - Chiozza points out that anti-Americanism has emerged as one of the political issues of our times especially in the Islamic world after the American aggression towards the Middle East that was developed as a reaction to 9/11 tragedy.

14 3. Anti-Americanism in Turkey - Polls show that the anti-American feelings of the Turkish people seem to have reached its highest level in the whole Republican history in recent years. - The American share of this trend can be claimed to be caused from “moderate Islam” and “Free Kurdistan” discourses emanating from Washington. Following JDP’s landslide victory in 22 July 2007 general elections, American diplomat and former Secretary of the State Richard Holbrooke defined Turkey and Malaysia as two examples of “moderate Islam” countries. - The Turkish share of extreme anti-Americanism in Turkey on the other hand, can be claimed to be caused from rising political Islamist trend in Turkey in the last two decades and the weakening of the ideal of Turkey’s European Union (EU) membership.

15 3. Anti-Americanism in Turkey - Rejection of 1 March memorandum and the “sack incident” are also fresh and bad memories in terms of Turkish-American relations. - Although the election of new American President Barrack Hussein Obama and his visit to Turkey marked a new beginning in Turkish-American relations, the problematic aspects between two countries’ relations still persist. - The anti-Americanism in Turkey is based on anti- imperialist stance, but it should be noted that there are few intellectual theoretical backings in this literature and people often face with fantasies, conspiracy theories and dystopias. The Arab Spring in that sense offers a new and fertile ground for new conspiracy theories and exaggerated claims for those who love to blame USA on every issue.

16 4. Anti-American Reflections of the Arab Spring - Turkey has appeared to be one of the most influential actors during the Arab Spring. Turkish government took a positive approach and actively engaged in the Arab Spring after a short hesitation for renewing the country’s “zero problems with neighbors” policy. However, unlike Turkish government and state, Turkish media and public opinion seemed very polarized and equally divided into two parts in interpreting and reflecting the Arab Spring. - On the one hand, there was the optimist and pro- Western side mostly consisted of Justice and Development Party’s conservative circles as well as liberals and social democrats. On the other hand, there was the pessimist and anti-American side mostly consisted of anti-imperialist leftists, nationalists and radical Islamists. A third category is defined as the “prudents” by Bacık.

17 4. Anti-American Reflections of the Arab Spring - A few newspapers and television channels in Turkey as an editorial policy interpreted and reflected the Arab Spring as an imperialist hegemonic project of USA. - The main stream media in Turkey reflected the Arab Spring mostly in a positive way though there were some names critical of the process in the mainstream media too. - Small newspapers and television channels that reflected the Arab Spring in anti-American way; - Aydınlık & Ulusal Kanal - Yeni Çağ - Yeni Mesaj & Mesaj Tv - Yurt - But some strong individual voices are heard.

18 4. Anti-American Reflections of the Arab Spring BANU AVAR Tv programmer & Writer - “Where are the leaders of this revolution?”, “Where are the organized workers and farmers?”. - Arab revolutions were driven by big firms like BP, Shell and Total and American supported civil society organizations that take over weaker states like a spidery web are the operative force of this wave. - Kurdish Spring is coming.

19 4. Anti-American Reflections of the Arab Spring ERDAL SARIZEYBEK Retired Colonel & Writer - Erdal Sarızeybek interpreted the Arab Spring as the repetition of the World War I and by making analogies with the Turkish state today and the Ottoman State during the First World War, wrote that “collaborator Arabs” again revolted against Turks in favor of Westerners. - He somehow equated Arab dictators and the Ottoman State.

20 4. Anti-American Reflections of the Arab Spring DR. BARIŞ DOSTER Academic & Writer - Doster underlined that it is not democracy but rather Western imperialism coming to the region as it could be seen in Iraq. - Doster also asserted that the aim of the Arab Spring is to establish pro-American moderate Islamic (he uses the term “American Islam”) regimes in the region and Russian-Syrian axis could prevent the development of the Arab Spring.

21 4. Anti-American Reflections of the Arab Spring SİNAN OĞAN MHP Deputy & Strategist - He was one the earlier names who interpreted the Arab Spring as a part of US plan to realize Greater Middle East project. - Although Oğan underlined that this reality does not overshadow Tunisian and Egyptian people’s demands for democracy, he clearly stated that USA aims to trigger and magnetize Arab revolts.

22 4. Anti-American Reflections of the Arab Spring HÜSNÜ MAHALLİ Syrian journalist - Akşam - Mahalli was one of the harshest critics of the Arab Spring in the mainstream media. In his articles published in Akşam newspaper, Mahalli many times underlined that democracy and human rights are just pretexts for the Western world and Turkish people should look at the bigger game that is taking place. - Mahalli frequently criticized Qatar-based television channel Al-Jazeera for taking part in the American plot, while not looking at human rights problems in its own country and Saudi Arabia.

23 4. Anti-American Reflections of the Arab Spring MAHİR KAYNAK Former intelligence officer & Writer - Kaynak asserted that USA supports the Arab Spring because this trend allows America to reduce its military expenditures and control oil prices stable in order to decrease its current account deficit in the times of economic crisis.

24 4. Anti-American Reflections of the Arab Spring NİHAT GENÇ Writer - Genç wrote that Arab Spring was nothing but “the colonization of the Islamic world by USA”. - Genç pointed out Saudi Arabia, Vahabbism, Muslim Brotherhood and Justice and Development Party as crime partners of USA in colonizing the Islamic world.

25 4. Anti-American Reflections of the Arab Spring KEMAL KILIÇDAROĞLU CHP leader - Kılıçdaroğlu pointed out that the Arab Spring did not bring male-female equality, healthy state structures and freedoms to the countries that were affected. - Kılıçdaroğlu condemned the lynching of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi and claimed that “Arab people dream of living in a country like Turkey whereas JDP officials try to be like Arab dictators”.

26 4. Anti-American Reflections of the Arab Spring MUSTAFA KAMALAK SP leader - Pro-Islamic Felicity Party’s (successive of Erbakan’s National Outlook tradition) leader Mustafa Kamalak also negatively interpreted and reflected the Arab Spring and asserted that “Arab Spring’s real aim is to establish a bigger Israel state” and “Turkey was deliberately trying to be pushed into a regional war with Syria and Iran”.

27 4. Anti-American Reflections of the Arab Spring BÜLENT GEDİKLİ AKP Vice President - Gedikli added a new dimension to conspiracy theories about the Arab Spring and strangely claimed that “Arab Spring is trying to be implemented in Turkey by the neo- con and Ergenekon coalition”. - Gedikli added many famous names such as Shimon Peres, Abdullah Öcalan, Angela Merkel, Benjamin Netanyahu, Nicolas Sarkozy, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, Mustafa Balbay, Tuncay Özkan, Yalçın Küçük, Doğu Perinçek, pro- Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party leader Selahattin Demirtaş, Jewish American writer Paul Auster and financial oligarchs to the neocon-Ergenekon coalition.

28 5. Criticism - As Kutlay and Dinçer point out, the anti-American perception and reflection of the Arab Spring is based on two main premises; 1-) United States is the hegemonic power of the world and it has the potential of controlling everything, if not most of the things that took place in the world. 2-) Peripheral actors such as Middle Eastern countries and Arab people are not subjects but rather objects of changes that took place in their own region. - Both of these arguments can be seen as problematic by many. - The first premise is based on the exaggerated idea that USA, as the hegemonic power of the world, has the capability to organize everything even revolutions in the world. For the Arab Spring, it is highly controversial to claim that USA’s role was more than corroborative. Organizing million-based demonstrations and convincing people to risk their lives in order to overthrow the corrupt “ancien regime” could not be that easy. This type of theories mostly exaggerates American power rather than observing it objectively.

29 5. Criticism - The second premise on the other hand is highly orientalist in its essence. - According to Edward Said, Orientalism is an imaginative system of thought created by Europeans to define the Orient and also themselves, the Occident. Said thinks that Orientalism serves to increasing authority of the West over the East. Orientalism considers Eastern people and mostly Muslim Arabs as people not having adequate intellectual and democratic level to be able to realize a democratic life without the help of the “modern” Westerners. Due to many historical, political, economic and social reasons, it is a fact that Muslim societies are not developed and democratized like European societies yet. However, this does not mean a final situation and although there are time gaps, modernization and democratization could be realized also in Muslim societies with their own internal dynamics. (Turkish model) - As Dinçer and Kutlay conclude, this analysis rather portrays the subject of change (Arab people) as objects of change.

30 5. Criticism - Another problematic part in the anti-American interpretation of the Arab Spring is that human rights and democracy do not keep a place in these critics. Although independence of a country and anti- imperialism could be stated as important values even in the times of globalization, at least an equal importance should be simultaneously given to human rights issues and democracy. However, in the pessimistic anti-American reflections of the Arab Spring, this sacred issue seems to be forgotten or deliberately overlooked. - It is also surprising that many of these same critics of the Arab Spring are anxious about Turkish regime when anti-democratic practices are implemented in Turkey by the JDP government. This inconsistency could be abolished only if anti-democratic practices are criticized everywhere in the world, both in Turkey when it comes from Erdoğan regime, but also in Syria and Libya when it comes from Assad and Kaddafi regimes.

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