Turkey is the latest Middle Eastern nation to be in the grip of 'popular' demonstrations and protests, and yet again there is a worrying element of fundamentalism showing. I note no one in the western Media is now talking about an "Arab Spring" in Turkey, perhaps, because they have belatedly realised the only winners in such a conflict are the extremists. Perhaps also, because Turkey is a supposedly, at least in "liberal" thinking, a "European" style democracy. Its government is "officially" secular, they use the "Latin" alphabet and not Arabic script, and they're members of NATO ...
This ignores some very deep divisions within the "nation" which is a post 1919 creation and far from a homogenous in it's peoples. There has been a long running and unacknowledged "civil war" with the Kurds in the East, and the Armenians (mainly Christian) were brutally suppressed in the North East soon after the modern Turkey was founded. Some argue that the Armenians suffered a campaign of genocide. The country is full of contradictions, although there is "officially" tolerance of other religions, Islam is dominant, and there are a number of radical voices now calling for a return to the use of Arab script in all writing, and the imposition of Sharia as the primary law.
In the country which was the home of many of the greatest theologians of Christian history, Christians are allowed to practice their faith under sufferance. All theological colleges were closed in the 1920s, and a law passed in the 1930s insists that the Patriarchate of Istanbul (officially still Constantinople in the Christian title) may only be filled by a Turkish national trained in Turkey. That last part is the tricky one. With no Theological Colleges, where would such a person be able to get the training? The present Patriarch (in his late 90s) is likely to be the last.
It is one of the side issues in the upheavals in many of the Middle Eastern/North African countries involved in the "Arab Spring" that Christians have become the target. Ancient churches have been defaced and sometimes destroyed, clergy seized, tortured and even killed, Christian families have been attacked, turned out of their homes and villages and accusations of "blasphemy" are frequently used to stir up violent mobs. One could be excused for wondering whether the "Arab Spring" is anything more than an opportunity for fundamentalists to seize power, commit genocide and "purge" their countries of everyone they have decided is "unclean" and therefore an "enemy of Islam".
The Syrian civil war is instructive, even Muslim Syrians are now being targeted by "foreign" fighters who declare they have come to "regain the land for Islam", apparently irrespective of the wishes of the Syrian people themselves. I have lost count of the numbers that have died in the fighting, it numbered in the tens of thousands the last time I looked, and recently I read of a 15 year old boy "executed" by foreign fighters for "insulting the Prophet". Apparently they misunderstood a local expression, but this act of barbarity says a great deal about what this war is likely to bring to this benighted land. Again, one wonders whether those who started the demonstrations demanding change in their government ever considered the outcome they seem likely to get.
And now similar "protests" are starting in Turkey. Given the nature of the man at the helm, and the mindset of the peoples and the politicians in general, I am hard pressed to anticipate a happy resolution. Revolutions seldom produce lasting change or a better state, government or organisation than the one overthrown. I expect to see Turkey in flames before there is any solution.
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