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Constructed History of Turkey

In the last decade, new pages have been added to the eclectic and ideological history of the state called Turkey, as you know. Events like Hande Fırat’s Facetime conversation with Erdoğan, connecting July 15 to July 16 with skill, have masterfully incorporated these new events into this new history. Through skillful maneuvers aimed at reinforcing perception, convincing people, and controlling thoughts, the regime gained positions and consolidated itself. At the same time, unwanted, feared, and must-be-eliminated questions were blocked through these adept maneuvers.

Controlling not only what happens but also how it is perceived and determining it is quite common in the practice of an authoritarian state. Turkey, as a state that has always been authoritarian, has frequently witnessed such manipulations of history. Changing what is, is the foundation of social engineering. You cannot shape the society you want without the management of perception. By pressing buttons related to specific events in certain contexts, you can initiate a process to achieve the desired results.

For example, a state official with a desire to use power unconstitutionally may go beyond some constitutional obligations while “trying to save democracy and the state” (!) in extraordinary conditions, changing the narrative completely, turning the story in favor of the authoritarian state official, preventing possible reactions, and neutralizing opponents. Likewise, covering up dirt through national causes created after major scandals, sweeping things you don’t want to see under the rug, clearing yourself, and saving the situation may be possible. The century-long history of the state called Turkey is somewhat the story of such operations.

It is not a newly discovered method, and it is not something to be surprised about; these are occurrences.

Controlling the perception of what happens, as much as controlling what happens, is widespread in authoritarian state practices. In countries like Turkey, the production of reasons, finding excuses, changing legitimacy, scoring points through nationalism, patriotism, and religiosity, gaining positions by referring to security requirements, and consolidating them by intimidating the public are most often applied. Remember, we are talking about one of the geographies where closed-circuit political systems dominate!

In a country where realities are skillfully reshaped, where history is rewritten to suit the interests of the ruling elite, where the mechanism of hero production continuously shows its permanence, and where positions tighten with the distinction between ‘us’ and ‘them’, the constant need to save the homeland arises. In such countries, constants like law and human rights disturb the ruling elites. Because in countries like Turkey, arbitrariness is preferred over the rule of law. The ones at the top can create alternative realities in place of unwanted truths. This quasi-divine power brings not only the highest and most intense political power but also dominance over what people think about the government. In closed-circuit political systems, without reaching this level of power, you cannot sustain the system, cannot ensure its continuity.

They want people to believe in what they are told, not what they see with their own eyes. They determine how the past will be interpreted and what actually happened in the past, holding a monopoly on this is a power. They know this by living through it.

The discourse of July 15, like other official elements of the republic’s history, has become unquestionable.

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Erdoğan and his power stakeholders are aware that protecting this official history at all costs is a matter of life and death. Belief in the story they created is the cornerstone of their power. Hande Fırat’s phone call, the bombing of the parliament, the pose of Şerife Bacı behind the truck’s steering wheel, Hulusi Akar’s story – these are skillfully crafted pieces of the regime discourse, the main foundation of the game played and the constructed reality.

People in Turkey are living in a world of lies. The structure you think is the state gains power by manipulating reality continuously. This structure, which determines who you are, where you come from, and your connection to your geography and place of residence, also skillfully produces the perception that makes you justify it while crushing those who oppose it. Constants like national history production and the identity built on its data have been created in the same way as before, from 1923 to 2023, for a hundred years, a fabricated history that we have been accustomed to, accepted as natural and normal.

Without bringing complete criticism to this history, objecting to pieces like “They drank beer in the mosque” or “tattooed men in leather jackets collectively urinated on the veiled sister” will not bring results. You cannot get rid of this tyrannical structure by selectively picking out pieces and ignoring those that don’t suit you. The whole coating needs to be completely scraped off. Without completely rejecting the discourse and without fearing the consequences, the necessary deep cleansing will never happen. There is a long list of lies told to you. Being very accustomed to some of them, and even liking them, is the biggest obstacle to changing the regime that you now hate and want to change.

The wreckage of official history is not something to be selectively dealt with. What is needed is the complete rejection of this artificial and constructed history. For those who want to succeed, there is no chance other than to use reflexes against Hande Fırat’s phone call, not only against it but also against the entire official history.

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Dr. Mehmet Efe Caman is a Scholar of Politics at Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN). Dr. Caman’s main research focuses on Democracy, democratization and human rights, Turkish politics, the Middle East, Eurasian politics and post-Soviet regions, the European Union. He has published a monograph on Turkish foreign policy, numerous book chapters and scholarly articles in English, German and Turkish about topics related to his research areas.

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