On Friday, July 15, a group of military officials attempted a coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Almost immediately, Erdogan’s leadership declared the attempt failed, blaming it on Fethullah Gulen, a self-exiled moderate Muslim cleric residing in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania. Gulen has inspired and organized the community known in Turkey as the ‘Hizmet movement’, also known as the ‘Gulenists’. Following the coup attempt, Erdogan declared a state of emergency, under which a massive crackdown on Gulenists resulted in purges of thousands said to be affiliated with the movement.
While the majority of Western media and analysts have focused on understanding what the coup attempt will mean for Turkey and its future, Jordanian blogger Naseem Tarawnah, who operates the blog, The Black Iris, has opted instead to analyze Jordanian reactions to the attempted coup. In doing so, he uses the events in Turkey as an analogue for understanding Jordanian thoughts on the country’s political reality.
In his latest blog titled, “Jordan’s Erdogan Effect: What Perceptions of Erdogan Say About Our Political Beliefs,” Tarawnah looks at religious conservatives’ and nationalist secularists’ opposing perceptions of the Turkish leader, and analyzes the society’s reaction to the attempted coup. Referring to Erdogan as “a great litmus test for political leadership perceptions amongst Jordanians,” Tarawnah attempts to understand the major ideological cleavage in Jordanian society, and its “bad tendency of choosing undemocratic leadership.”
“When [Erdogan’s] name comes up in uneasy conversation, a virtual line in the sand is drawn and people take a step in either direction. Their commitment is based on satisfying emotional appetites as much as ideological subscriptions. The religious conservative’s vote of confidence in Erdogan is as much an expression about their disillusionment with the status quo as the rejection of Erdogan is an expression of fear by nationalists who prefer a non-religious variety of conservatism. The way we – and much of the Arab world – view Erdogan and political leadership generally, is a vivid reminder of what can only naturally come from years under undemocratic rule, and all the baggage that comes with it. Politics centers around faith in a single figure; not a system of governance.
Subsequently, the reactions to what happened last Friday night in Turkey only helped expose the fact that even after everything that’s happened this past half decade – and a century’s worth of experiences that lead to them – the lessons of the Arab Spring remain completely lost on us. Cheering on a military coup is no different than cheering on an Islamic power tripper – we’re essentially cheering for the same inevitably autocratic entity, only it wears a different hat. And this may be the most frustrating thing about the Erdogan effect: its ability to do that rare thing of holding up a giant mirror, reminding us we not only have an ideological split but also a bad tendency of choosing undemocratic leadership – be it religious or nationalistic.
You would think that after all this time, we might have reached a point of realization that neither can move us forward and that we might want to try something else out for awhile. What experiences could we possibly still have to endure that we haven’t already? When does the authoritarian malaise set in? What does that cognitive shift need for it to happen? Does it require a person to inspire it or a movement to lead it? Would it entail a critical moment in social tensions, or will it unfold gradually?”
Read the full article here.