Turkey’s involvement in regional conflicts has whipped up nationalist fervor, obliterated space for advocates of peace and democracy and deepened a sense of fear and precarity among the minority populations, Member of the Turkish parliament, ethnic Armenia Garo Paylan writes in an opinion peace published by the New York Times.
“A procession of cars filled with men waving the flag of Azerbaijan, honking and whistling drove through the Kumkapi area in Istanbul, which is home to the Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul and many Armenian families. The car rally, on Sept. 28, was a provocation, a threat that filled my community, the tiny Armenian community — 60,000 out of 83 million — in Turkey with fear,” Paylan says.
According to him, Turkey’s strategy of strong support to Azerbaijan in the Karabakh conflict is in line with Mr. Erdogan’s government’s decision to increase our country’s military footprint abroad — Syria, Libya and the eastern Mediterranean — to enhance Turkey’s position as a regional power.
But there is also a direct correlation between the Turkish government’s desire to delve into conflicts abroad and the closing down of the democratic space at home.
“I have witnessed and experienced this myself, as an Armenian from Turkey and as a member of the Turkish Parliament, representing the predominantly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir from the People’s Democratic Party, or the H.D.P., which brought together the country’s Kurds, leftists, environmentalists, feminists and minorities in opposition to Mr. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, or the A.K.P., and its rule,” the MP says.
“Because of my country’s authoritarian turn, my background and political leanings are enough to turn me into a target. On Oct. 5, the Eurasia Institute of Strategic Affairs, a nationalist outlet, published a full-page advertisement in support of Azerbaijan in Sabah, a newspaper with links to the Erdogan family. It was signed by former and current members of the Turkish Parliament from the A.K.P.,” Paylan informs.
“The advertisement in Sabah accused me of being pro-Armenian and of committing treason, calling on the Turkish judiciary and the Parliament to “fulfill its duty.” In the current Turkish political climate, it sounded like a call to remove my immunity — parliamentarians in Turkey have immunity from prosecution — so that I can be put on trial for my peacenik stance. Yet I have filed a legal complaint about the advertisers and continued to call for peace in the Caucuses,” he continues.
“As an Armenian from Turkey and a descendant of genocide survivors, I know very well the meaning of this message. In 2007, Hrant Dink, a celebrated and outspoken Armenian journalist from Istanbul, who edited the Agos newspaper, was assassinated by a Turkish nationalist in a similar period of heightened nationalism. Mr. Dink once described Turkey’s Armenian minority as ‘living with the trepidations of a dove’.” the lawmaker reminds.
According to him, the darkness that engulfed Turkey seems to widen every day.
Paylan believes that if President Erdogan wants to be relevant, he should stop inflaming tensions in the Caucuses and support the cease-fire between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
“But I am not naïve, and I know that only a democratic Turkey can help stabilize its region and act as a responsible member of the international community. That is why I will not remain silent in the face of threats and will keep on fighting for democracy here and peace abroad,” Garo Paylan concludes.