“I simply must get through” Alice said in front of the door. “Sorry, you are much too big. Simply impassable,” the doorknob replied. Alice asked “You mean impossible?” “No, impassible. Nothing’s impossible” the doorknob said. Alice talked about getting to the other side with the Doorknob in the quote above, and in his wisdom, the Doorknob could see beyond what seemed impossible and describe the situation using another term impassible, in the fantasy novel of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ by Charles L. Dodgson, telling about a young girl Alice’s adventures after jumping through a rabbit hole. In just 5 years, Turkey has experienced 6 elections, becoming a complete wonderland with all ups and downs, dreams and disappointments, and impassable vs. impossible. The definition of dreams, the perception of impassible and the meaning of impossible changes dramatically before every election, and for both pro – government and opposition voters, experiencing elections is like being on a roller coaster in Turkey. Briefly, because of all these ups and downs and psychological breakdowns due to vicious circle of expectations and disappointments, Turkish people are tired of the adrenaline.

Now, we’re once again on the doorstep of local elections, it’s just a week ahead of us; would you jump down the rabbit hole with me to see the Turkish wonderland?

 “Çanakkale is impassible”

Definitely it is! Dardanelles (Çanakkale) Campaign was the Allied Powers’ unsuccessful attempt to control the sea route from Europe to Russia during World War I through straits. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers sacrificed their lives at Çanakkale, leaving behind many heart-breaking stories from both sides; but it is definitely a turning point in Turkish history. The Empire was depleted by the cost of the war after the Balkan wars of 1912 – 1913, after participating in WW1 on three major fronts; it also created a massive human resource problem. Turkish people had lost many from its young generation in the war, but the victory triggered the idea of independence and was named a milestone along the path to the Turkish War of Independence. In addition, the first sparks of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s extraordinary leadership skills were seen in Çanakkale Battles with his military genius throughout the war. But, you might say that a “war” has flourished very good relationships between countries thousands of miles away from each other, and it also has left the idea that some lines are impassible.

 Marking a historical day or impassible lines

March 18 is marking the Naval Victory Day of the Dardanelles Battles, and President Erdoğan spoke at a ceremony in Çanakkale on the occasion of 104th anniversary. In his speech, President Erdoğan drew attention in the New Zealand shooter manifesto to the threats against the Turks and said: “This is not an individual incident, but an organized one. We are here. We are in Çanakkale. We are in this country ─ with its Thrace and Anatolia. Turks, Kurds, Arabs, Circassians, Bosniaks, Georgians; we are all here, in Çanakkale, in Turkey. We have been here for a thousand years. We will be here till the end of the world. You won’t be able to make Istanbul Constantinople. Your forefathers had come and seen that we had been here. And then some of them had gone back on their feet and some others in coffins. If you are to come with the same intention, then we are waiting for you. Have no doubt that we will see you off, too, the way we did your forefathers!” (Quote from Presidential web site)

President Erdogan was strongly criticized internationally for playing the footage of terrorist attack in New Zealand at campaign rallies and for saying that Australians and New Zealanders would be sent home in coffins if they came with ill – intention towards Islam to Turkey. The Australian prime minister reacted furiously to the Turkish president’s comments, warning that because of the offensive remarks “all options are on the table.” Morrison, the Australian PM, summoned the Turkish ambassador and called a press conference to announce that he did not accept the excuses offered for the comments that they had been said “in the heat of the moment, in the context of the elections.” In this very sensitive environment, he said the comments were highly offensive and highly reckless, adding that they insult the memory of the Anzacs and violate the pledge that the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, has etched in the stone at Gallipoli. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s response was more silent, she said she didn’t think the long – term relationship with Turkey would change. Despite New Zealand’s attempt to stop the video being shown all over the world, Foreign Minister Winston Peters of the country did not raise the issue in a bilateral emergency meeting with Mr. Erdogan, saying he believed that the Turkish President would not do it again.

Fahrettin Altun, Turkey’s presidential communications director responded the criticisms from his Twitter account underlining that it was unfortunate that President Erdoğan’s words were taken out of context, and added “He was responding to the so-called ‘manifesto’ of the terrorist who killed 50 innocent Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand.” He highlighted the hospitality of Turkish people to Anzac visitors, and said “The terrorist’s manifesto not only targeted Erdogan himself but also the Turkish people and the Turkish state. As he was giving the speech at the Canakkale (Gallipoli) commemoration, he framed his remarks in a historical context of attacks against Turkey, past and present.” Mr. Altun, also, attached English translation of President’s speech to his tweet.

Nothing is impossible

Nothing is impossible in these lands. A few weeks ago, assuming a tension with countries – Australia and New Zealand – thousands of miles away from Turkey was quite unlikely, if not absurd. Although Turkey and New Zealand / Australia fought in Çanakkale Battle over a hundred years ago, it was all peace through Atatürk’s light and heart – rending words saying:

Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives … You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours … You, the mothers who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.

Tension with Western countries is like one of the Turkish pre – election items; both before the referendum in April 2017 and the presidential elections in June 2018, Turkey had experienced more or less similar events with European countries, i.e. Dutch, Germany, and Belgium. It is argued that because of the nationalist tendencies that have been adopted, President Erdoğan uses anti – Western rhetoric to galvanize and consolidate his supporters; and more importantly, he wants to change the political narrative with the economy in recession, rising unemployment and double – digit inflation. Due to the experiences in previous elections, it is known that anti – Western rhetoric pays off every time and is unfortunately used as one of Turkish politics’ fundamental parts.

Six elections in five years and the polarization that it created among the Turkish people blurred all the lines that were thought to be impassible. Turkish people are once again on the verge of elections divided into two equal camps to identify by their votes what is impassible or impossible. For countries other than Turkey, local elections are merely to elect the administrators of your city, but in Turkey, you may easily find yourself among the topics that stretch between the state’s survival to the Crusades or serious tensions with Western countries.

This is Turkish Wonderland, stay tuned!

Other highlights from past week

  • Czech president’s accusations

We strongly condemn, and find unacceptable, the false, fabricated and slanderous statements about Turkey and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, made by the President of the Czech Republic, Miloš Zeman, at a panel. It is appalling that a Head of State, who is expected to act responsibly, makes such accusations despite knowing that they are false.” a Foreign Ministry spokesman said in a statement, after the accusations of Czech President regarding support of Turkey to ISIL in its fight against Syrian Kurds.

  • President Erdoğan slams Mansur Yavaş, CHP candidate for Ankara, due to legal allegations

Speaking in a televised interview late on March 18, President Erdogan said that Mansur Yavas, jointly backed for mayor by the major opposition parties in Ankara, faces criminal allegations and would not have immunity. Yavas will “pay a heavy price and make our fellow Ankara residents pay a price too, even if he can join the elections,” said Erdogan.

  • Turkey to probe JP Morgan

Late on Saturday March 23, 2019, the BDDK (Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency ) said it received complaints about a report published by JP Morgan on Friday, hurt Turkish banks ‘ reputation and caused financial markets volatility. It would be followed by the necessary “administrative and judicial processes,” it added.

Also, after receiving complaints that a report by JP Morgan was misleading and caused speculation on the Istanbul Stock Exchange, SPK (Turkey’s Capital Markets Board) said it launched a probe.