Accepted Paper:

Insecure state, insecure citizens: the case of Turkey  
Sinan Gokcen (Sheffield University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the historical background and current practices of the Turkish state's 'sensitivity' to security concerns against the 'threats directed towards "national unity" and insults against the dignity of Turkishness' and the culture of intolerance that took root among the public in return.

Paper long abstract:

This paper examines the historical background and current legal, political and social practices of Turkish state's 'sensitivity' for security concerns against the "threats directed towards 'national unity' and insults against the pride/dignity of Turkishness". This chronic apprehension causes the state establishment to regard its citizens as perilous, ready to be engaged in secessionist, treacherous activities. While under international law and in global practice there is common consensus among states that territorial integrity must be guarded and secured, 'national unity' does not seem to be universally recognized concern. Nonetheless, Turkish Constitution and laws are full of clauses referring to the 'protection of national unity', and this rigid attitude causes no minorities other than those recognized under the Lausanne Treaty of 1924 (only three 'non-Muslim minorities of Turkey'; namely, Armenians, Jews, Greeks). As recognizing minorities or a claim to minority status would crack wide open the 'national unity'. It is well-known fact that as a rump state of the Ottoman Empire, Turkey has dozens of minority groups. Thus, the country still has a tremendous multicultural richness, despite rigid state policies that have been implemented since almost a century. But, the multicultural opulence cannot last for long as languages are disappearing, the people are emigrating, the cultures are dying. The even more alarming development than the 'traditionalized' state intolerance towards 'others' is the 'informal nationalism' (T.H. Eriksen, 1993, "Formal and Informal Nationalism", Ethnic and Racial Studies, Vol. 16, No. 1, p. 1-25.) that is taking root among the Turkish public in general. Consequently, there are extremely ironic 'initiatives' taken spontaneously by the 'citizens' themselves; for example the court case filed against the Turkish translator and publisher of Little Prince of Saint-Exupéry (because there is an allusion to 'Turkish Dictator' in the book) or the detention of a small local restaurant owner that has salt and pepper shakers "that look like the Kurdish insurgent leader" upon reports brought to the police. The 'national skepticism' would hypothetically worsen with the symbiosis of state and public sense of insecurity growing, because of the surging armed clashes in the Kurdish dominated regions of Turkey, alongside general instability in the Middle East. Currently, new legislations are pending for broadening the scope of 'terrorist acts'. A new law called the 'Anti-terrorism Act' has been approved by the parliament, but is challanged by the President of Turkey, Ahmet Necdet Sezer, who filed an appeal to the Constitutional Court for the amendment of a number of its articles. Even if these articles of the new law that concern the media institutions are changed, the rest of the legislation might endanger freedoms and rights of the public in general in Turkey to a very serious extent. Soon, even wearing certain colors and listening to a music cassette might be deemed as a 'terrorist activity'.

Panel W021
Responses to insecurity: securitisation and its discontents