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    Intended for Europe, destined for MidEast

    Güven Sak, PhD12 October 2015 - Okunma Sayısı: 1348

    We are going through tough times. We lost some 100 citizens to two bombs that went off in Ankara on Saturday. We do not have definitive numbers yet but hundreds of people were also injured. Once upon a time, such incidents would only happen in Baghdad, Kabul, Damascus or Al Raqqah. Such remote places, we would think. We would follow what happened through our televisions or the internet. It would happen in Aleppo. Aleppo is quite close to Gaziantep, but not at all for Ankara or Istanbul. When Suruç was hit, we would still discuss the regional limits of the impact of the incident. But the explosion on Saturday was in Ankara this time.

    Now just look around you, don’t you think there is something amiss? What would an administration, which cannot guarantee the security of life and property of its citizens in its capital, do in the east of the Euphrates? Can a country that cannot guarantee the security of life and property to its citizens, have any larger claims? It can’t. The truth is, I am very upset about the opportunities that we wasted away. In 2002, we resolved for Europe, we departed for that path with tremendous hope and we succeeded in turning the country into the Middle East.  Reckoning we would become European, we ended up becoming Middle Eastern. I would like to share with you today my reflections following the carnage in Ankara.

    Let me start off by this idea of becoming Middle Eastern, if you please. I am putting it this way because the scope and form of the incident entirely echoes with the Middle East for me. Both the number of casualties and the brutality of the incident suggest this. According to the Global Terrorism Database of the US Maryland University, the largest number of civilian casualties in a single bomb attack around the Middle East since 2010 was in Yemen. 110 people died in Yemen in 2011 in a single incident. The Ankara attack therefore already made its way to number two in the list. We did not use to be like this. We did not witness such colossal carnage even in the pre-1980 turmoil. Now, in the 21st century, we have turned into a Middle Eastern country and we have come to witness this.  That’s the first point.

    The second point is, we did not become party to the issues of the Middle East in the past. Now we are party to such issues and all of a sudden, the Middle East turns up here. The feuds of the Middle East, settled in the Middle Eastern way, now turn out here in Ankara, the capital of our Republic. All of a sudden, we have turned Middle Eastern in this sense. We can now better appreciate the wisdom and foresight of the imperial officers that established our Republic, I guess.

    And the third point. We had set off on the trail to Europe in order to pace up our democratization process, base our economy on solid administrative and institutional ground, and to break away with the Middle East. We were aware of our mistakes. We wanted a new leap forward. But now, just like the others in the region, we have come to see ourselves as lions in the mirror. Regardless of whether we could merit or afford it, we came to believe we were entitled to the high ticket. Something came over us along the way. We suddenly lost our grip on reality. What happened? Supposed to become European, we became Middle Eastern. We forgot about Confucius too, who had said that poverty is something to be ashamed of in a country well governed, whereas wealth is something to be ashamed of in a country badly governed. I think that quote best explains our state of affairs today. But we seem to have no shame whatsoever.

    And what is the cost of being where we are today? I think it’s pretty clear. Turkey ranks 55th whereas Brazil ranks 120th in the 2015 Doing Business Rankings of the World Bank among 189 countries. The 2015 survey shows 2014. The gross national income of Brazil in 2014 was USD2400bn whereas Turkey’s is USD800bn. It was around USD830bn the previous year. This came about despite the 3-5% growth due to TL depreciation. Hence Brazil’s national income is four times as high as Turkey’s. All right, and did you ever look into the foreign capital attracted by the two countries? Turkey’s is around USD12.5bn. What would you expect? If Brazil’s national income multiplies that of Turkey’s this way, you would expect some USD50bn to flow to Brazil at most. But nay, Brazil appears to have attracted USD100bn in foreign capital in 2014 according to the World Bank database. Eight times as high as Turkey’s. Why? Besides, the economy is poorly managed in both countries. While India’s Central Bank cuts interest rates and our Central Bank in Turkey simply sits and stares, Brazil’s Central Bank is expected to boost interest rates. Why?

    I think the differences in the territories where each country is located in, as well as the news reports generated in each territory, play their part here. Brazil features on news hours with the Rio Carnival, colourful parrots, beautiful beaches, whereas Turkey hits the news with explosions and record-high death tolls. Yesterday, these news came from the proximity of our country. They came about from our periphery. Now they happen at the heart of it. Imagine who would want to invest in Turkey once they see such news. Who would want to come to a country which falls short of ensuring the life security of its citizens?

    Turkey will receive less of foreign investments as long as it is a part of the Middle East. No European, American or Japanese engineer would want to come with their spouses and kids to a country whose capital is stage to explosions that kill a hundred people. Arms dealers rather than companies making medium- and high-tech production would come to a country where a bomb kills a hundred people at the heart of the capital.

    Perhaps, as Mehmet Barlas said the other night, in a remark that I failed to grasp instantly to tell you the truth, Turkey is indeed a Middle Eastern country. Shall I tell you how?

    “Watch out,” a seasoned diplomat once told me years ago when the Arab Spring began, “Don’t jump to conclusions. They always start off well in this Middle East but then they go and spoil it all in the end.” Perhaps we are Middle Eastern in this sense.

    And why does it turn out this way? How can we set off for Europe and arrive at the Middle East? Why did we go and spoil it all. I have another quote here in mind, in fact. Let me recite for you what Mark Twain said ages ago: “Politicians and diapers must be changed often, and for the same reason.” See, in this sense, we continue to be sorely Middle Eastern.

    Dixiet salvavi animam meam.

    This commentary was published in Dünya on 12.10.2015