Is the Path to Erdogan’s ‘Different Turkey’ Paved with Corpses?

“There will be a very different Turkey by 2023. … One nation, one flag, one homeland, and one state…”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke these words on Nov. 28—the day Tahir Elci, a prominent Kurdish rights advocate and head of Diyarbakir’s Bar Association, was gunned down in Diyarbakir.

A scene from Elci's funeral (Photo:
A scene from Elci’s funeral (Photo:

By 2023, 100 years after the foundation of the modern Republic of Turkey, Erdogan intends to solve the “Kurdish problem.”

And now there is one less obstacle in the way.

With one bullet to the back of the neck, Elci’s lifeless body hit the ground.

He had clearly hit a nerve. “The PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] is not a terror organization,” the human rights lawyer had said on CNN Turk a month earlier. The death threats started rolling in. The arrest and charges followed. And then the bullet silenced him.

Of course, that was not enough.

“This incident shows how right Turkey is in its determined struggle against terror,” Erdogan said following Elci’s murder, in an attempt to roll out a carpet stained with Elci’s blood on a path leading to more terror and destruction. “We will relentlessly continue our struggle. We will not stop. We will proceed with determination,” he added.

The government has claimed the gunmen were members of the PKK. The PKK has issued a statement blaming the government for the murder.

By 2023, it appears, not much will have changed from the turn of the last century. The Turkish state will continue its struggle to mold the “other” into its ideal subject, sparing neither oppression, nor murder, nor widespread state-sponsored terror. And it will still be daydreaming about that “very different Turkey” that it has been chasing after for decades—a dream that can only include dead Tahir Elcis and dead Hrant Dinks.

More than 50,000 joined Elci’s funeral procession in Diyarbakir. Tears ran down the faces of men and women, young and old, as they bid farewell to the outspoken lawyer. But the flag that accompanied Elci to the folds of the earth—that very same flag that the state considers an affront to “Turkishness”—just stained the mourners a little more red, a little more green and yellow.

Turkey will be different, just not in the ways Erdogan envisions. It changed following the assassination of Dink. We hear the change in the impassioned words of Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Co-Chair Selahettin Demirtas, Parliamentarian Garo Paylan, and the Nor Zartonk activists of Istanbul. We witness that change in the work of the many activists, journalists, publishers, and writers who day after day challenge the state, demanding justice for all victims of state violence—genocide, oppression, state terror—including murdered friends and colleagues.

But can justice ever breathe in Turkey, or is its fate sealed in the deserts of Syria, the prison cells around the country, and the bomb blasts and gunshots?

Nanore Barsoumian

Nanore Barsoumian

Nanore Barsoumian was the editor of the Armenian Weekly from 2014 to 2016. She served as assistant editor of the Armenian Weekly from 2010 to 2014. Her writings focus on human rights, politics, poverty, and environmental and gender issues. She has reported from Armenia, Nagorno-Karabagh, Javakhk and Turkey. She earned her B.A. degree in Political Science and English and her M.A. in Conflict Resolution from the University of Massachusetts (Boston).
Nanore Barsoumian

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  1. Turkey’s Deep State has been killing off its imagined and real opponents for decades. Erdogan is only continuing as others have led. Same band, different music . . . . . Europe seems to favour Turkey as a useful cog in the wheel despite the obvious human rights abuses and appalling strangulation of media rights and freedoms.

  2. RIP
    And the rest of the world are not interested and never will. Especially now when to Turkey paid for the reception of refugees and even promised EU membership. Hypocrisy.

  3. Dear Nanore,
    Short answer to your plaintive rhetorical question…”can justice ever breathe in Turkey”…is no it cannot!
    The deep state is much too ingrained. There would have been a chance for Turkey to become more democratic after its “defeat” in the First World War, if the entire governmental infrastructure had been dismantled as was the case in Germany following the NAZI defeat. But, with Mustafa Kemal’s victory, nationalism became increasingly strident and all non Turks even more marginalized. The Kurds will work something out for themselves both in Northern Syria and Northern Iraq whether Erdogan likes it or not.
    However, like the Armenians l00 years ago, Turkey is finished for the Kurds.

    Ellen Sarkisian Chesnut
    YouTube: Scars He Carried

    • {However, like the Armenians l00 years ago, Turkey is finished for the Kurds.}

      It’s the other way around.
      Fortunately for them, Kurds are too numerous now in Turkey to be “finished” like Armenians 100 years ago. It is not physically possible for Turks to exterminate 20-25 million Kurds in Turkey, even if they tried.

      And Kurds are growing 2X to 3X faster than the rest of Turkey.
      If trends continue, Kurds will become majority in Turkey around 2040.
      In either case, Kurds are too populous to be subdued.
      Turkey itself is finished in its present form.

  4. As long as our “compassionate” western “civilized” countries such as the USA and her puppet cousin the UK, turn a blind eye on the terrorist state of turkey, they will continue to get away with mass murder and genocide!

  5. Both the USA and the EU will always support Turkey as they see the country as geographically indispensabe. They ,especially the UK a quarantor of the independence and territorial integrity of Cyprus puts continuing pressure upon the Cypriots to sign over their fate to Turkey. As for the EU they will allow the Turks ,the cradle of ISis and other fundamentalist visa free entry into the EU. I hope the Fench people take to the streets to prevent it. As for the USA, it enforced an artms embargo on Cyprus while supplying american armaments to the occupying Turkish forces. Also ,per Kissingers now declassified letters the USA had no objection to Turkey taking a third of Cyprus. It was the americans to give.

  6. Bravo Nanor…
    As Persians say,(دست بالای دست بسیار است) meaning “there are many hands over/above the hands” and i guess the new hand is Russia – for the time being.

  7. Erdogan is a despot, just like his predecessors. This is because the mindset of the Turkish people is despotic. Every people has the leaders it deserves. The denial of the Armenian Genocide is a symptom of this general mentality which has its roots in Islam. Muslims never admit to any wrongdoings against “infidels”.

    • {The denial of the Armenian Genocide is a symptom of this general mentality which has its roots in Islam.}

      No. The denial of the Armenian genocide is a symptom of a mentality which has its roots in the nomadic land-grabbing and predatory origins of most Turks. Most other Islamic countries where the genocide survivors found refuge and later formed communities hold Armenians in high respect.

    • It is not the crucial component that affects the Turkish denial of the Armenian genocide. The fear for financial compensations and stolen land retribution is the crucial one.

  8. john: It does indeed affect the denial, in so far as the aggressive Islamic mentality makes Muslims feel no remorse when it comes to slaying “infidels”. I wouldn’t even say that they’re denying the genocide (, but they are actually saying “We did the right thing”. Why? Because they model their conduct on early Islam. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the early Islamic massacres of “disobedient” Jews in Medina? Turks actually sometimes point to this precedent as a proof that they were morally right in massacring Armenians in 1915.

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