Turkey’s iPhone rev­o­lu­tion

“Re­li­gion is an im­por­tant in­sti­tu­tion. A na­tion with­out re­li­gion can­not sur­vive. Yet it is also very im­por­tant to note that re­li­gion is a link be­tween Al­lah and the in­di­vid­ual be­liever. The bro­ker­age of the pi­ous can­not be per­mit­ted. Those who use re­li­gio

Daily Trust - - SPORT REPORT - Muham­mad Al-Ghaz­ali ghaz­a­l­ism@gmail.com

In Au­gust 1996 I at­tended a ca­pac­ity build­ing pro­gram at a fa­cil­ity ad­ja­cent to Lon­don’s Re­gents Park. The pro­gram fully de­liv­ered on my set ob­jec­tives. But it was one of the classes fa­cil­i­tated by the le­gendary Pub­lic Re­la­tions guru Sam Black and what he said at the tail end of his lec­ture that is of rel­e­vance for the re­main­der of this dis­course.

In 1996, the in­ter­net age was still in its in­fancy com­pared to now. Although the Soviet Union had un­bun­dled in 1991, the words ‘Glas­nost’ and ‘Per­e­stroika’ were yet to re­cede from the lex­i­con of in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions. South Africa had also dis­pensed with apartheid as the in­sti­tu­tion­al­ized form of gov­er­nance only two years pre­vi­ously. The rest of Africa, the Mid­dle East and Asia still had its strong­men fully en­sconced in power.

That was the con­text in which Sam Black chose to in­form the class, made up pre­dom­i­nantly of in­ter­na­tional del­e­gates that with the ad­vent of the in­ter­net, and the free flow of in­for­ma­tion across the world­wide web, there was no longer any hid­ing places for strong­men and dic­ta­tors that held sway in most of the de­vel­op­ing world at the time.

He went on to de­liver a lengthy lec­ture in which he en­vi­sioned a new world or­der in which ‘the peo­ple’ will be more em­pow­ered by the en­hanced ac­cess to crit­i­cal in­for­ma­tion that would, in turn, make their lead­ers more ac­count­able to them.

To­day, I have no way of know­ing what his im­pres­sions are on the role of the so­cial me­dia in the so­cio-eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment of na­tions which he predicted, but there can be no deny­ing its im­pact in the abil­ity of the Turk­ish masses to swiftly mo­bi­lize to halt the at­tempted over­throw of their demo­crat­i­cally elected govern­ment by a pam­pered mil­i­tary es­tab­lish­ment with a pro­foundly mis­guided no­tion of its role as the supreme pro­tec­tor of the na­tion’s sec­u­lar­ism.

In­deed, with what tran­spired be­fore our very eyes this past week­end, it will be safe to con­clude that all the pre­vi­ous mil­i­tary coups in Turkey suc­ceed largely be­cause of the paucity of a ver­i­ta­ble plat­form for mass mo­bi­liza­tion we now take for granted in the in­ter­net age. The Turk­ish mil­i­tary es­tab­lish­ment staged three coups be­tween 1960 and 1980. In 1997, it also forced Prime Min­is­ter Necmet­tin Er­bakan out of power and ap­pointed a suc­ces­sor of its liking. Sig­nif­i­cantly, all the coups took place be­fore the ad­vent of Face­book (2005) and Twit­ter (2013). That view, of course, pro­ceeds on the hy­pothe­ses that what hap­pened in Egypt with the mil­i­tary over­throw of the govern­ment formed by the Mus­lim Brother­hood was an aber­ra­tion.

In the present con­text, it was in­struc­tive that the swift mo­bi­liza­tion of the Turk­ish cit­i­zenry was made pos­si­ble through the live tele­cast of a mes­sage from the Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan who re­quested his sup­port­ers to re­sist the coup by de­fy­ing the cur­few im­posed by the plot­ters. Even more telling was the fact that the medium through which the mes­sage was trans­mit­ted was an iPhone!

Even so, it will amount to the high­est in­jus­tice if we merely rec­og­nize the role of the in­ter­net and so­cial me­dia, with­out rec­og­niz­ing the tremen­dous courage and pa­tri­o­tism ex­hib­ited by the Turk­ish peo­ple in the suc­cess­ful abor­tion of the coup. Even if the late Steve Jobs whose par­ents hailed from Syria were to be alive to­day, he would also have sneered at the sug­ges­tion that his in­ven­tion alone ac­counted for what tran­spired in Turkey over the week­end. That the iPhone played a crit­i­cal part is be­yond de­nial; but it wasn’t the only fac­tor in the suc­cess­ful un­rav­el­ling of the coup.

Among those who matched against the coup last week­end was a nona­ge­nar­ian who fought for the Ot­toman Em­pire! His ges­ture was mon­u­men­tal since in the his­tory of mod­ern Turkey the com­pelling im­age of Mustafa Ke­mal Ataturk looms very large. He, it was, who in­her­ited the ashes of the Ot­toman Em­pire af­ter its de­feat by al­lies in World War 1.

The mon­u­men­tal mil­i­tary re­ver­sals trig­gered the rapid un­rav­el­ling of the Ot­toman Em­pire, a ma­jor su­per­power at its zenith. It also left an im­pact on Ataturk. His sub­se­quent writ­ings –in­clud­ing the quo­ta­tion cited above – in­di­cated that he never for­gave the Arab tribes mo­bi­lized by the le­gendary Bri­tish Cap­tain T. E. Lawrence, more pop­u­larly re­ferred to as “Lawrence of Ara­bia” in pop­u­lar folk­lore, for their be­trayal.

His feel­ings un­doubt­edly gave birth to “Ke­mal­ism” a se­ries of po­lit­i­cal, cul­tural and so­cial re­forms cal­cu­lated to re­move or com­pre­hen­sively di­lute or ex­punge what­ever Arab in­flu­ence from the fir­ma­ment of the new Re­pub­lic of Turkey he founded in 1923.

The re­forms dis­pensed with the Is­lamic cal­en­dar, and dras­ti­cally cur­tailed the in­flu­ence of Is­lamic Sheiks. He mod­elled the new re­pub­lic in the im­age of the West and en­cour­aged Turk­ish men and women to dress like Euro­peans. He ex­punged Ara­bic words and in­scrip­tions from the Turk­ish lan­guage. He re­garded the Fez cap which Sul­tan Mah­mud II had in­tro­duced into the Ot­toman Em­pire’s dressed code in 1826 as a sym­bol of feu­dal­ism and promptly banned it as well.

He in­vested his en­tire legacy on the sep­a­ra­tion of the state from the Is­lamic re­li­gion. But he also opened the door for the ed­u­ca­tion of girls and granted women equal­ity in work­places. He in­vested his en­tire legacy on the sep­a­ra­tion of the state from the Is­lamic re­li­gion.

Yet, in spite of all his ef­forts, it will seem that po­lit­i­cal trends in the past two decades are poised to threaten his legacy. In many re­spects, there­fore, what tran­spired in Turkey was not just an iPhone rev­o­lu­tion it was equally a reval­i­da­tion of the new di­rec­tion Turk­ish pol­i­tics ap­pears to be headed.

There may be pock­ets of re­sis­tance, but if the ma­jor­ity is ex­pected to carry the day in any democ­racy, the po­lit­i­cal show of sup­port for Er­do­gan and the govern­ment he leads, is a ma­jor vote of con­fi­dence that can­not be wished away even West­ern cap­i­tals. In the snap elec­tions held in Novem­ber 2015, Er­do­gan’s Jus­tice and De­vel­op­ment Party, also known as the AKP, and seen as be­ing “Is­lamist” in the West, gained the ma­jor­ity seats in the 550-mem­ber par­lia­ment. More wor­ry­ingly for those op­posed to the cur­rent govern­ment, even the op­pos­ing po­lit­i­cal par­ties have joined in op­pos­ing the coup. If at all his in­flu­ence ap­peared to be wan­ing be­fore, the purge that is sure to fol­low will also en­able Er­do­gan and his party to con­sol­i­date their hold on power for now. I need not add that his govern­ment has al­ready lib­er­al­ized the wear­ing of veil by women among other things.

Quite eas­ily, the big­gest losers from the week­end’s events in Turkey has to be its mil­i­tary es­tab­lish­ment which had for long viewed it­self as the un­elected guardians of the na­tion’s sec­u­lar­ism. But what game were the var­i­ous West­ern gov­ern­ments also play­ing?

It was ob­vi­ous that most of the West­ern gov­ern­ments hedged their bets while the dra­matic events played out on the streets of Ankara and Is­tan­bul. The big­gest cul­prits were, of course, their me­dia. Even as their own pic­tures re­vealed the plot­ters were be­ing resisted and ar­rested in the streets, many still as­ton­ish­ingly ex­pressed their wish­ful think­ing. They pre­tended to be obliv­i­ous of which way the wind was blow­ing.

Their at­ti­tude be­trayed the ha­bit­ual flaw in judge­ment com­monly as­so­ci­ated with the West when it comes to the de­fence of demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions in mostly Mus­lim and Third World na­tions. We saw in Egypt how they sat back and watched a pop­u­larly elected govern­ment was over­thrown be­cause of its Is­lamic Ori­en­ta­tion. This time, an an­a­lyst on Fox News even unashamedly re­marked that “if the coup suc­ceeds win, we win”

Back home, to Nige­ria; the events in Turkey should serve as a timely warn­ing to the anti-demo­cratic forces in the Na­tional As­sem­bly cur­rently mulling over the im­peach­ment of the Pres­i­dent to pro­tect their ‘in­vest­ments’. The peo­ple of Turkey in their un­com­mon re­solve, have shown the way to re­sist the over­throw of pop­u­lar gov­ern­ments with their courage, and the help of an iPhone and their his­tory will not be the same again even in the shadow of Ke­mal Ataturk.

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