Monday, October 30, 2023

Erdogan Chooses Low-Key Celebration for Turkey’s 100th Anniversary as Secular Republic


Turkiye Celebrates 100 Years as a Republic Amidst Global Tensions

Turkiye, the post-Ottoman republic, marked its centenary on Sunday with somewhat subdued celebrations due to the escalating war between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan led the day-long events, which aimed to honor the secular republic’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, while also highlighting the achievements of Erdogan’s Islamic-rooted party that has governed the country since 2002.

Erdogan, who has been at the forefront of Turkiye’s political landscape for the past decade, has been testing the limits of the country’s secular traditions and its relations with the West. The competing forces between secularism and Islamic conservatism were evident as Erdogan transitioned from commemorating Turkiye’s past to celebrating his own government’s accomplishments during his tenure as prime minister and president.

However, the celebrations were overshadowed by Erdogan’s strong condemnation of Israel’s response to the Hamas attacks in October. Turkish state television even canceled the broadcast of concerts and other festivities due to the “alarming human tragedy in Gaza.” Erdogan’s unwavering support for Palestinian rights has made him a hero in many parts of the Muslim world.

In a pro-Palestinian rally held in Istanbul on Saturday, Erdogan claimed that 1.5 million people participated, effectively drowning out national television coverage of the centenary celebrations. He accused Israel of acting like a “war criminal” and attempting to “eradicate” Palestinians. These remarks led to Israel withdrawing all diplomatic staff from Turkiye for a “re-evaluation” of relations.

The diplomatic crisis between Turkiye and Israel further diverted attention from the country’s birthday celebrations and shifted the focus onto Erdogan’s handling of global affairs. Turkiye has experienced strained relations with its Western allies since Erdogan survived a failed coup attempt in 2016, which he attributed to a US-based Muslim preacher.

Prior to the recent tensions, Israel had already ordered its diplomatic staff to leave Turkiye and several other regional countries as a precautionary security measure. By October 19, all Israeli diplomats had left Turkiye. This ongoing conflict has highlighted Turkiye’s complex relationship with Israel and its position in the Middle East.

Despite the external challenges, Erdogan remains determined to usher in a new era for Turkiye, which he has dubbed “The Century of Turkiye.” He envisions a new constitution that upholds conservative family values as a cornerstone of this new era. Erdogan’s vision for the future of Turkiye aligns with his party’s Islamic-rooted principles and aims to solidify his legacy as a transformative leader.

As Turkiye celebrates its centenary, it finds itself at a crossroads, grappling with internal and external pressures. The country’s secular traditions are being tested, and its relations with Western allies are strained. Simultaneously, Erdogan’s strong stance on global issues, particularly the Palestinian cause, has garnered support in the Muslim world but has also created diplomatic challenges.

The next chapter in Turkiye’s history will be shaped by how it navigates these complex dynamics. As the country looks towards the future, it must strike a delicate balance between preserving its secular foundations, maintaining international relationships, and addressing the aspirations of its conservative base. Only time will tell how Turkiye will navigate these challenges and shape its path forward in the next century.

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