To become a nation in Yenikapı

By:Özlem Albayrak*

Since the night of July 15, Turkey has discovered that it has two potentials it never realized before. The first is that it is a nation that has the power to stand against and even repel a coup. The second is the picture of solidarity that we saw at the Yenikapı rally – a picture in which differences were erased. The identity politics that has constantly divided, isolated and polarized the society since the foundation of the Republic of Turkey has finally become meaningless. Alevis and Sunnis, Turks and Kurds, Kemalists and Conservatives, Christians and Jews, Greeks and Armenians, ethnic minorities and majorities were all present at the meeting on Sunday. Yenikapı was the common ground for people who we actually thought did not have any common ground at all. For the first time, we saw that groups that saw each other as the enemy were actually standing side by side in the colors of peace. We came across pictures that we could regard as the king of oxymorons that took us from a state of surprise to a state of happiness. We smiled. Besides this was not just a symbolized number or stance. The number of participants was not limited to 5 million people, as there were those who gathered in all the other cities of the country and those who could not come for one reason or another, but had their hearts there. The thing that united all these people from different walks of life was that FETÖ is a terrorist cult that was used as a tool by superior powers.

Yenikapı has also proved that the state-nation relationship that was trying to be established in the past 14 years has started to become natural. Because it was not only our country that was attacked on July 15, but our state, too. For decades, groups that clashed with each other’s identities and always kept a distance from the state presented a picture of peace that day. This peace was actually a phase that had been continuing for a while, but it became a symbol in Yenikapı. Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar’s “gratitude” distant from a cold, harsh and imperative manner was unforgettable.

We all know that we have become a society made up of groups that are in constant conflict with each other. Because we did not have the notion of a mutual past – some of us exalted the Ottomans while the rest of us did not accept anything beyond the Republic. We obviously did not dream of a mutual future either. Some exclaimed they wanted a modern Western future, while the others were thought to support Ottomanism. “Us and them” was the main cause of tension in Turkey’s sociology. This tension produced hate, concerns of lifestyles was always on the agenda and the stronger party oppressed the other whenever possible. We had moved from the empire model to a nation-state model years ago, yet we had not succeeded in founding a nation.

But the millions who responded to the state’s rally call showed us that the term “us” no longer consisted of one’s own group but included the whole country. The term “other” was no longer directed at Sunnis from the Alevis and the Seculars to the Conservatives, but instead the powers that threatened Turkey were now considered as the “other.” This at least means we have taken a solid step toward something promising.

Obviously the differentiation of “us” and the “other” was only a perception; and the borders of “us” and “them” could be changed; and people in Turkey could overlook differences and become one.

We have understood that although we never had a perception of a mutual “past” we could resist a coup attempt together and show that terror groups like FETÖ cannot rule us. This is what happened on July 15 and Aug. 7.

The nation that shared a mutual language, education, culture and history were trying to be convinced that they were a part of the Turkish nation. But this was successful to an extent. Because to become a nation, there would also need to be citizens formed with the politicization of the individual.

The Gülen coup attempt ensured that this last factor was actualized as people from different backgrounds and groups risked their lives to protect their country.

In conclusion, on Aug. 7 we saw a spirit of solidarity in Yenikapı…

The government, opposition parties, nongovernmental organizations and citizens should all show they are making an effort to ensure that this solidarity is not lost. Because this is very valuable.

*Özlem Albayrak is a Turkish columnist at Yeni Şafak Turkish daily.

                  (Published in Yeni Şafak on Wednesday, August 10, 2016)