Elizabethtown College’s Bowers Writers House held a discussion on the changing political climate of Turkey Friday, Sept. 15 at 5 p.m.
The speakers for the event included associate professor of political science Dr. Oya Dursun-Özkanca, Turkish newspaper executive Abdülhamit Bilici and president of the World Affairs Council Joyce Davis.
Dursun-Özkanca is interested in the study of Turkish foreign policy, transatlantic security, European politics, the Balkans and peacebuilding missions. She has also written several scholarly articles in leading peer-reviewed journals, such as “Civil Wars,” “European Security” and “Journal of Intervention and State Building.”
Bilici was an editor-in-chief of “Zaman Daily,” the largest daily newspaper in Turkey before having to leave the country due to political turmoil.
Before the presentation, there was a reception at 5 p.m. featuring a selection of refreshments including meatballs, vegetables, brie and bread.
The reception lasted until 7 p.m., when the presentation began. The reception gave students and faculty a chance to interact.
The presentation started off with a book raffle. Two lucky students won books that related to the topic of diplomacy.
Davis started the presentation by introducing the topic of discussion.
“Turkey used to be a peaceful country, but this is now changing,” Davis said.
She went on to pose the question “What is causing the change?” to the other speakers.
Bilici gave his viewpoint first by stating it has to do with an “ideology perspective.’
He explained that Turkey’s current leader, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, campaigned as a conservative democrat. He denounced the ideology of political Islam, which uses the government to promote Islamic law. Under the democratic ideology, he attempted to have Turkey become a member of the European Union. However, during his third term, things changed.
“He [Erdoğan] went back to his true ideology of political Islam,” Bilici said.
Dursun-Özkanca agreed that Erdoğan used his leadership to fool society. “He infiltrated government branches and then showed his true colors,” she said.
Dursun-Özkanca went on to disagree with the idea that all people thought Erdoğan was great at the beginning because some people were skeptical of his motivation from the start.
After talking about reasons for the political change, Dursun-Özkanca brought up how this change affected the people of Turkey.
Bilici explained that once the corruption came to light, Erdoğan blamed another group to save himself from going to jail. The other group, Gülen, used to be allies with Erdoğan before the corruption was uncovered.
Now Erdoğan has labeled this group as terrorists and anyone associated with this group is being punished.
“People are going to jail and being put on house arrest,” Dursun-Özkanca said.
The discussion ended with questions from the audience. One question was about whether the corruption would have occurred if Turkey had become part of the European Union.
“It might not have occurred, because there would be more checks and balances,” Dursun-Özkanca said.
Another question was about the reasons for the Turkish people’s lack of action against the corruption.
“People in Turkey live in a bubble,” Dursun-Özkanca said.
She explained how the media coverage is controlled. She also pointed out that people are more comfortable now than they were before, so they don’t feel the need to complain. First-year Jessica Cox found this point to be interesting.
“I learned so much,” Cox said. “It made me aware of outside views.”